Taking steps to sit less

15 November 2013

In this blog post, Gillian Wong and Dr. Maureen Ashe describe a new pilot study that aims to reduce sedentary behaviour and integrate physical activity into daily life.

Ms. Wong is the research coordinator for the EASY pilot study, which runs through the Activity & Aging Lab (A3) at the Centre for Hip Health & Mobility (CHHM). Dr. Ashe is Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Family Practice, an investigator at the CHHM, an MSFHR Scholar and a CIHR New Investigator. Read about the A3 Lab.

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The television remote control brought convenience into our lives and created an environment for sedentary behaviours to flourish. Other innovations like elevators and cars make it easy for us not to move.

However, with a large proportion of older Canadians not meeting physical activity guidelines [1] and possibly engaging in prolonged sedentary behaviour [2-4], we should take steps to move more.

Physical activity is a vital part of healthy living, yet its counterpart, physical inactivity, contributes to detrimental health outcomes such as the development of chronic conditions. Many chronic conditions are preventable and may result from “engineering energy expenditure out of our lives.” [5] Similarly, sedentariness is emerging as a risk factor for developing chronic conditions [6] and is associated with a higher risk of death. [7]

Research demonstrates that simply knowing about the benefits of physical activity is not enough to adopt or sustain health behaviour changes. [8, 9] Like the remote control, perhaps physical activity can be introduced into our lives with the promise of convenience, too.

Physical activity can be EASY

The Everyday Activity Supports You (EASY) pilot study is evaluating this approach. The study aims to reduce sedentary behaviour and integrate physical activity into daily lives.

The EASY program is a six-month feasibility study for women at retirement age. In this randomized control trial, the intervention group receives a self-management program that includes education sessions, social support, individual physical activity prescription, and an activity-monitoring device.

The sessions seek to dispel the myth that physical activity only includes exercise (it doesn’t! [10]) and progresses through various relevant topics (such as falls prevention, touring a grocery store, active transportation etc.), while reinforcing strategies for decreasing sedentary behaviour and maintaining physical activity.

With increased awareness about sedentary behaviour and physical activity in research and the media, the contributions and findings of the EASY pilot will be especially relevant and important for researchers, organizations, and individuals alike.

At the midpoint, we asked the intervention group about their experience with the study to date, and they expressed improved motivation, activity, well-being, and confidence. In light of such promising early feedback, we hope that the final results will confirm our hypothesis that physical activity can be EASY— a pun we recite good-naturedly, but believe in deeply.

  • For more information on the EASY pilot study, visit clinicaltrials.gov (Identifier: NCT01842061)


  1. Ashe MC, Miller WC, Eng JJ, Noreau L, Physical A, Chronic Conditions Research T. Older adults, chronic disease and leisure-time physical activity. Gerontology 2009; 55(1): 64-72.
  2. Owen N, Bauman A, Brown W. Too much sitting: a novel and important predictor of chronic disease risk? BJSM 2009; 43(2): 81-3.
  3. Owen N, Healy GN, Mathews CE, Dunstan DW. Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2010; 38(3): 105-13.
  4. Sedentary Behaviour Research Network. Letter to the editor: standardized use of the terms “sedentary” and “sedentary behaviours”. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2012; 37(3): 540-2.
  5. Stein J. Stay moving, not still. Exercise slows aging and makes us feel better. Los Angeles Times. 2009.
  6. Proper KI, Singh AS, van Mechelen W, Chinapaw MJ. Sedentary behaviors and health outcomes among adults: a systematic review of prospective studies. Am J Prev Med 2011; 40(2): 174-82.
  7. Dunstan DW, Barr EL, Healy GN, et al. Television viewing time and mortality: the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab). Circulation 2010; 121(3): 384-91.
  8. King AC, Rejeski WJ, Buchner DM. Physical activity interventions targeting older adults. A critical review and recommendations. Am J Prev Med 1998; 15(4): 316-33.
  9. Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to Increase Physical Activity in Communities. Am J Prev Med 2002; 22(4S): 67-72.
  10. Caspersen CJ, Powell KE, Christenson GM. Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Rep 1985; 100(2): 126-31.

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