Impact of economic growth on physical activity and sedentary behaviors: a Systematic Review

H. Yang, R. An, C. V. Clarke, J. Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: This study systematically reviewed scientific evidence regarding the impact of economic growth on physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviors. Methods: A keyword and reference search was conducted in PubMed, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Scopus, and EBSCO from the inception of an electronic bibliographic database to November 2021. Studies that met all of the following criteria were included in the review: (1) study designs: observational studies; (2) study subjects: people of all ages; (3) exposure: macroeconomic growth; (4) outcomes: PA or sedentary behaviors/sitting time. Results: 15 studies were identified. Eight among 12 studies found economic growth positively associated with at least one domain/measure of PA, whereas the remaining four found an inverse relationship. One of two studies examined the association of economic growth and physical inactivity found a positive relationship, while another found no significant relationship. Four studies examined the associations between economic growth and sedentary behaviors, and the results were inconclusive. The impact of economic growth on PA is through three main pathways—(a) building and maintaining parks and green spaces, (b) adoption of the modern workplace and high technology, and (c) motorized transportation. Conclusion: Building and maintaining parks and green spaces can effectively promote leisure time physical activity and active commute in developed countries, whereas promoting workplace and transportation-related PA could be prioritized in developing nations. Future research calls for longitudinal study design and further exploration of macro-environmental factors. Policymakers and stakeholders should be informed about the potential PA reduction resulting from economic growth and develop preventive strategies to alleviate the problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Economic development
  • Macroeconomic growth
  • Physical activity
  • Review
  • Sedentary behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of economic growth on physical activity and sedentary behaviors: a Systematic Review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this