Energy expenditure during common sitting and standing tasks: examining the 1.5 MET definition of sedentary behaviour

Background Sedentary behavior is defined as any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure of 1.5 METS or less while in a sitting or reclining posture. This study examines this definition by assessing the energy cost (METs) of common sitting, standing and walking tasks. Methods Fifty one adults spent 10 min during each activity in a variety of sitting tasks (watching TV, Playing on the Wii, Playing on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and typing) and non-sedentary tasks (standing still, walking at 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8, 1.0, 1.2, 1.4, and 1.6 mph). Activities were completed on the same day in a random order following an assessment of resting metabolic rate (RMR). A portable gas analyzer was used to measure oxygen uptake, and data were converted to units of energy expenditure (METs). Results Average of standardized MET values for screen-based sitting tasks were: 1.33 (SD: 0.24) METS (TV), 1.41 (SD: 0.28) (PSP), and 1.45 (SD: 0.32) (Typing). The more active, yet still seated, games on the Wii yielded an average of 2.06 (SD: 0.5) METS. Standing still yielded an average of 1.59 (SD: 0.37) METs. Walking MET values increased incrementally with speed from 2.17 to 2.99 (SD: 0.5 - 0.69) METs. Conclusions The suggested 1.5 MET threshold for sedentary behaviors seems reasonable however some sitting based activities may be classified as non-sedentary. The effect of this on the definition of sedentary behavior and associations with metabolic health needs further investigation.