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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Sedentarity

More physical exercise and less of a sedentary lifestyle for better health

Physical activity has favourable effects in the prevention of chronic diseases

Updated on 03/01/2018

Keywords : Nutrition, Physical Activity, Sedentarity, Sleep

Physical activity is often considered to only cover the practice of sport, whereas it actually encompasses all forms of daily physical activity using muscle function and energy metabolism, whether work or leisure related. Sedentarity is a situation of wakefulness characterised by low energy expenditure in a sitting or recumbent position. The Agency has been working to develop nutritional guidelines in the framework of the National Health and Nutrition Programme, incorporating recommendations on physical activity and sedentarity, as well as on food. The favourable effects of physical activity and reducing sedentary time in the prevention of many chronic diseases have now been widely demonstrated. The Agency therefore recommends reducing sedentary behaviour and engaging in physical activity, in all contexts of life and at all ages.

The Agency has been working to develop nutritional guidelines for the National Health and Nutrition Programme (PNNS), which enable decision-makers to formulate nutrition recommendations and support and assess strategies for promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour.

Not enough physical activity...

Physical activity is often considered to only cover the practice of sport, whereas it actually encompasses all forms of daily physical activity, whether work or leisure related, which use the body (carrying heavy loads and gardening are examples of physical activity).

The favourable effects of physical activity in the prevention of chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, etc.) have now been demonstrated by numerous studies. The short-, medium- and long-term benefits are reflected in systemic, hormonal and metabolic adaptations, with preventive effects that concern all the components of health (physical, mental, social life).

Nevertheless, the studies currently available show that irrespective of the age groups, the physical activity of the population is considered insufficient. According to the Third Individual and National Study on Food Consumption (INCA 3) conducted by the Agency, only a third of adolescents aged 11 to 17 years practice at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity, and 63% of adults aged 18 to 79 years practice at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity, as recommended by ANSES and the WHO.

…and too much sedentary time

Moreover, for estimating sedentarity, the time spent sitting in front of a screen (television, video games, computer) is the most commonly used indicator in studies, despite it only accounting for part of the actual sedentary time.

Outside of working time, adults spend between 3h20 and 4h40 daily sitting in front of a screen. Children and adolescents (between 3 and 17 years of age) spend more than two hours daily in front of a screen, and for people over the age of 65, this time is around three hours.

According to the INCA 3 study, between 2006-07 and 2014-15, the average time spent daily in front of a screen for recreation increased by around 20 minutes in children aged 3 to 17 years, and by 1h20 in adults.

What about sleep?

Sleep time is insufficient in France, especially in adolescence when sleep disorders are frequent and expose the individuals to health risks. Engaging in physical activity improves the quality and increases the quantity of sleep. The positive effects of physical activity on sleep appear from the start of the practice and become long-lasting when it is regular.

And a good sleep promotes physical activity!

 

The Agency’s recommendations

In view of these findings, ANSES recommends:

  • promoting the practice of physical activity, of different types (cardiorespiratory, muscle strengthening, flexibility) and identifying all the opportunities for practice: moving around, carrying a load, going up or down stairs, being active in the home, etc. are all types of physical activity;
  • encouraging the reduction of sedentary behaviour, by reducing the total time spent sitting on a daily basis and by interrupting extended sedentary time with active breaks. The concomitance of an increase in physical activity and a reduction in accumulated continuous sedentary time will produce the greatest effects on health;
  • promoting the practice of physical activityand the reduction of sedentarityby providing conducive environments: workplace, school time, transport and travel, etc.

In its updating of the nutritional guidelines on physical activity, ANSES offers a series of recommendations tailored and accessible to all: children and adolescents, adults, the elderly, pregnant women, etc. These recommendations aim to enable the adoption of an active lifestyle from a very young age, in a favourable environment, while reducing the situations of inequality observed in physical activity and inactivity.

The Agency stresses that the development of spaces reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, the promotion of modes of public transport, the organisation of working time and school time, the increase in the time spent engaging in physical activities in school would particularly help promote the practice of physical activity.

The Agency also recommends supporting training and information campaigns for professionals in healthcare, physical activity and sport, in order to provide the population with the necessary assistance in implementing the Agency's recommendations through tailored advice (risks, gradual approach, objectives).

 

A collaborative European initiative to curb the increase in overweight and obesity among children and adolescents by 2020

Together with the Directorate General of Health, ANSES is coordinating JANPA, the European joint action on nutrition and physical activity, whose objective is to curb the increase in overweight and obesity among children and adolescents by 2020. JANPA will enable the 26 participating countries to share the practices they use to combat obesity and overweight, in order to identify the most effective solutions. Besides general coordination, the Agency is particularly involved in the project component concerning nutritional information, which aims to share good practices in the collection of information on food, as well as its use by stakeholders in the framework of nutrition policies.

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