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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 17;8(4):e61723. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061723. Print 2013.

Joint association of sitting time and physical activity with metabolic risk factors among middle-aged Malays in a developing country: a cross-sectional study.

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Julius Centre University of Malaya, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Prolonged sitting is associated with increased weight and higher risks for abdominal obesity, dyslipidaemia, hyperglycaemia and hypertension among the adult population. This has been well documented in the West, but studies on these associations are lacking in developing countries, including Malaysia.


This cross-sectional study aimed to examine the joint association of sitting time and physical activity with metabolic risk factors among middle-aged working adults.


A total of 686 Malay men and women participated (mean age 45.9 ± 6.5 years). Metabolic syndrome was diagnosed from the modified NCEP ATP III criteria. Self-reported sitting time was obtained with the validated Malay version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Participants were asked about their time spent sitting during travel in a motor vehicle, e.g., car, motorcycle or bus, over the preceding 7 days. Logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio with the confidence interval for the combined effects of sitting quartiles and physical activity categories with metabolic risk factors.


The prevalence of metabolic syndrome among our participants was 31.9%. Their average total sitting time (including transportation) was 7.6 ± 2.4 h/day. After we adjusted for gender and educational level, higher sitting quartiles and physically inactive groups were associated with higher odds for metabolic syndrome compared with the referent group (sitting <6 h/day and physically active). In the physically active stratum, the odds for metabolic syndrome in participants who sat ≥ 9.3 h/day was 3.8 times that of participants who sat <6 h/day. Both higher sitting quartiles and insufficient physical activity were associated with adverse effects on abdominal obesity, hypertriglyceridemia and hyperglycaemia.


In joint analyses of sitting time and physical activity, higher sitting time and insufficient physical activity were deleteriously associated with odds for metabolic risk factors in middle-aged Malay men and women.

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