Are we sitting too comfortably? What evidence do we have regarding sedentary behaviour among GPs?

Richard Mayne, Nigel Hart, Neil Heron

Keywords: General Practice, Sedentary Behaviour, Physical Activity

Excessive sedentary behaviour is associated with a number of adverse health outcomes and increased all-cause mortality. GPs who are more physically active are more likely to recommend physical activity to their patients.

Research questions:
What is the current evidence regarding levels of sedentary behaviour among GPs?

A systematic review was conducted to establish the evidence regarding current levels of sedentary behaviour among GPs. Subsequently, a multi-item questionnaire survey (modified version of the International Sedentary Assessment Tool (ISAT)) was disseminated to GPs in Northern Ireland. A purposive, maximally varied sample of 20 survey participants were then recruited to wear thigh-worn accelerometers and complete a sleep/work log to obtain objective data regarding their sedentary behaviour. This allowed comparison of subjective, self-reported data with objective, accelerometer data.

Systematic Review:
Search criteria returned 1707 studies. 34 full texts were reviewed and 2 studies included in the final review. Both were cross-sectional surveys of satisfactory methodological quality and a high risk of bias.

Sedentary Behaviour Study:
Out of 1999 GPs in Northern Ireland, the questionnaire received 352 valid responses (response rate of 18%). Overall mean workday sedentary time for GPs was 10 hours 20 minutes. Overall mean non-workday sedentary time was 4 hrs 47 minutes. Only 6% of GPs had access to an active workstation, such as a standing desk, however 61% of those who didn’t have an active workstation would consider using one. 81% of GPs reported they are spending more time sitting in work now than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 87% of GPs would prefer less time sitting in work.

Sedentary behaviour among GPs has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the vast majority of GPs exceeding the recommended daily levels of sedentary behaviour. Further research is required to identify ways of reducing sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity among GPs.

Points for discussion:
How can we reduce sedentary behaviour among GPs?

What are the barriers and facilitators to reducing sedentary behaviour among GPs?

How does the sedentary behaviour among GPs in Northern Ireland compare to GPs working in other countries?