Physical Activity & Political Affiliation: Any Connection?

Research Paper Title

Are “Armchair Socialists” Still Sitting? Cross Sectional Study of Political Affiliation and Physical Activity.


To examine the validity of the concept of left wing “armchair socialists” and whether they sit more and move less than their right wing and centrist counterparts.


Secondary analysis of Eurobarometer data from 32 European countries.


The study emanated from the authors’ sit-stand desks (rather than from their armchairs).

Participants & Main Outcome Measures

Total of 29 193 European adults, of whom 1985 were left wing, 1902 right wing, 17 657 political centrists, and 7649 politically uncommitted. Self-reported political affiliation, physical activity, and total daily sitting time.


Linear models were used to examine the relation between physical activity, sitting time, and reported political affiliation.


The findings refute the existence of an “armchair socialist”; people at the extremes of both ends of the political spectrum were more physically active, with the right wing reporting 62.2 more weekly minutes of physical activity (95% confidence interval 23.9 to 100.5), and the left wing 57.8 more minutes (20.6 to 95.1) than those in the political centre. People with right wing political affiliations reported 12.8 minutes less time sitting a day (3.8 to 21.9) than the centrists. It is those sitting in the middle (politically) that are moving less, and possibly sitting more, both on the fence and elsewhere, making them a defined at-risk group.


There is little evidence to support the notion of armchair socialists, as they are more active than the mainstream in the political centre. Encouraging centrists to adopt stronger political views may be an innovative approach to increasing their physical activity, potentially benefiting population health.

What Is Already Known

  • A substantial proportion of the population is insufficiently active and spends large amounts of time sitting.
  • Insufficient physical activity and prolonged sitting time are associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality related to non-communicable diseases.
  • Physical activity and sedentary behaviour have many internal (such as attitudes and motivation) and external (social and environmental) influences.

What This Paper Adds

  • People who report extreme left or right political views are more physically active than those who report centrist views.
  • The term armchair socialist seems to be a misnomer.


BMJ 2014;349:g7073



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