Smoking has been ‘Public Enemy #1’ in the context of public health within Australia for decades. Thankfully smoking participation rates have declined so much that over the last two decades the number of Australians who smoke has dropped by half to only 13%. There is however a new public health issue gaining attention – sedentary behaviour – in particular long periods of sitting!
Prolonged periods of sedentary behaviour (in particular sitting) has significant deleterious health effects such as:
- 147% increased risk of heart disease
- 112% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes
- 49% increased risk of mortality
These statistics are worrying – especially when coupled with the fact that 58% Australians spend 39 hours a week (or more) in sedentary behaviours; thus living with those aforementioned increased health risks right now! In light of these statistics it comes as no surprise that 66% of Australians are overweight or obese!
So, what is sedentary behaviour? Common sedentary behaviours include TV viewing, video game playing, computer use (collective termed “screen time”), driving automobiles, and reading.
More troubling was a recent study that showed 12 hours of sitting and 1 hour of walking led to no discernible health benefits compared to 13 hours of sitting. This was a ground-breaking study because it proved that if you sit all day you have to exercise at a moderate to high level of intensity to prevent ill health (a gentle walk won’t save you!).
“you can’t outrun a sedentary lifestyle”
So, what can you do?
Here are some solutions we suggest to clients all the time:
- Cycle or walk to work where possible
- Catch public transport and stand rather than sit to and from work
- If you must drive, try park further away from work to facilitate walking
- Request or organise a standing desk in your workplace
- Have ‘walking meetings’ with colleagues or staff
- Join or start a before or after work exercise group
- Participate in a ‘step’ challenge with a daily quota of walking to facilitate less sedentary time
- Place a treadmill in front of the TV
Sitting for 12 hours or more is literally putting your life at risk so make every effort to get moving! Not only will you reduce your risks of heart disease, diabetes and early death there are numerous other benefits to exercising more as well such as:
- Lower risk of osteoporosis as weight bearing exercise improves bone density
- Improve mood (exercise boosts serotonin and dopamine levels which facilitates good mental health)
- Improved Appearance (exercise facilitates weight loss, builds muscle and produces more collagen giving you younger looking skin!)
- Improved job performance (exercise has been shown to improve cognitive performance and memory)
- Faster healing (exercise boosts circulation which can improve healing rates and tissue repair – but always ask your OT before returning to sport post injury!)
(2017) Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality: prospective cohort study. BMJ Vol. 357 (1456).