Accurate assessment of sedentary behavior as a standpoint for effective prevention

Sedentary time is abundant in modern life. To effectively prevent the population-level risks associated with this ubiquitous behavior, it needs to be the primary target of the interventions.

Arto Pesola

Arto Pesola, MSc

PhD Student in exercise physiology

Neuromuscular Research Center

Department of Biology of Physical Activity

University of Jyväskylä


The ubiquitous sedentariness

A daily life of modern people is characterized by large amounts of sedentary time with relatively idle muscles. The other dominating part, non-exercise activity, is abundant and affected by biological, behavioral and environmental factors. Most importantly, these factors are likely various and different compared to factors related to exercise behavior.

Recent research evidence has indicated sedentary time to be detrimentally associated with health outcomes independent of meeting exercise guidelines. Given the population level decrease in total physical activity level, the associations between the most dominant components of physical activity pattern and health outcomes need to be understood in greater detail for effective prevention.

Because physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure, specifically muscle activity is needed to change the sedentary time to physical activity. Enzymatic processes leading to substrate utilization and improved insulin sensitivity are initiated by muscle activity, not physical impact or posture per se as measured by accelerometers. Despite the causal role of muscular inactivity on metabolic changes the associations between muscular inactivity and cardio-metabolic biomarkers have not been directly assessed. In addition, most of the evidence about health hazards of sedentary behavior are based on cross-sectional and prospective research justifying the need for sedentary-time targeted interventions with objective measures of the primary outcomes.

New information for effective prevention

The aims of my PhD project are:

  1. To develop new methods to assess everyday physical activity and sedentary habits. The focus is especially in measuring muscular activities by EMG, because of their causal role on metabolic changes.
  2. To map the associations between the muscular inactivity parameters and cardio-metabolic outcomes.
  3. To test the feasibility and effectiveness of sedentary-time targeted behavioral intervention among office workers.
  4. To clarify the causal role of reduced muscular inactivity on cardio-metabolic outcomes.

Scientific publications

  • Pesola, A.J., Laukkanen, A., Haakana, P., Havu, M., Sääkslahti, A., Sipilä, S., Finni, T. 2014. Muscle inactivity and activity patterns after sedentary-time targeted RCT. Accepted to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
  • Laukkanen, A., Pesola, A.J., Havu, M., Sääkslahti, A., Finni, T. 2013. Relationship between habitual physical activity and gross motor skills is multifaceted in 5- to 8-year-old children. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, doi: 10.1111/sms.12116
  • Sillanpää, E., Cheng, S., Häkkinen, K., Finni, T., Walker, S., Pesola, A.J., Ahtiainen, J., Stenroth, L., Selänne, H., Sipilä, S. 2013 Body composition in 18 to 88-year-old adults - comparison of multifrequency bioimpedance and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Accepted for journal Obesity (Silver Spring)
  • Tikkanen, O. Haakana, P., Pesola, A.J., Häkkinen, K., Rantalainen, T., Havu, M., Pullinen, T., Finni, T. “Muscle activity and inactivity periods during normal daily life", PLoS ONE 8(1): e52228. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052228
  • Finni, T., Haakana, P., Pesola, A.J., Pullinen, T. 2012. Exercise for fitness does not decrease the muscular inactivity time during normal daily life. Scand J Med Sci Sports doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01456.x
  • Finni, T., Sääkslahti, A., Laukkanen, A., Pesola, A.J., Sipila, S. (2011) A family based tailored counselling to increase non-exercise physical activity in adults with a sedentary job and physical activity in their young children: Design and methods of a year-long randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health 20;11:944.

Other publications

Luomuliikunnan vallankumous - sohvan pohjalta taisteluvoittoon. 168 pages. Fitra 2013.

Media appearances

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