The average Australian now sits for more than nine hours a day – that’s longer than most of us sleep! Think about the number of hours each day you spend sitting. How do you get to work? How long do you spend in front of a computer? What do you do in the evening to unwind? It all adds up. Do you spend most of your day on your behind?
So why aren’t we moving? New technology, a shift from manual labour to office or automated working environments, increased car ownership and the rise and rise of screen-based entertainment have all contributed to our increasingly sedentary lives.
Today, only one third of adults and two thirds of children meet the national guidelines regarding physical activity. The Government has also introduced guidelines to help us minimise the amount of time we spend sitting.
We have become a nation of sitters. Are you sitting while you read this? It’s time to stretch those legs. Stand up and continue reading!
The recent Move More Sit Less survey asked more than 1000 Australians about their sitting habits, attitudes and feelings. The results showed that we know that too much sitting is bad for us, yet 65% of respondents spent more than 8 hours of their day sitting; at work, in the car, in front of the TV / iPad/game console. Disturbingly, one in six sat for more than 11 hours each day, increasing their risk of early death by 40%.
67% of respondents thought that 30 minutes of exercise a day is enough to stay healthy, even if you spend long periods of your day sitting. Unfortunately this is not the case. The physical benefits of that walk, run or gym session will be almost wiped out by the negatives effects prolonged sitting has on our bodies.
The Move More Sit Less Survey was the first of its kind to measure how people feel when they have been sitting for long periods, and how they feel if they break up long periods of sitting. Thinking about how a particular activity makes us feel is key to creating new, healthy habits. 82% of respondents said they feel tired and lethargic when they sit for too long and 65% felt it made them less productive in the workplace. Encouragingly, 67% reported that they felt more refreshed after taking a short break and 68% said that sitting less at work would ‘definitely’ improve their wellbeing.
80% of the survey respondents said they would like to sit less. So what can we do? How can we create a culture at work and home to move more and sit less every day? It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – it’s easier than you think.
When we find an activity fun, we’re more likely to do it. If you’re in the office, try introducing a ‘retro vibe’ – remove the chairs in your waiting area and replace them with hula hoops. Or check out the ‘hood – print out local walking routes and post them up around the office. At home, send an overused chair or couch to the ‘naughty corner’. Make your local corner store or supermarket ‘base camp’ – grab backpacks and hike to the shops for groceries.
Responses to the Move More Sit Less survey highlighted that people are seeking more information and support in order to move more and sit less. A multifaceted approach is required, which combines awareness raising, cultural change, changes to the physical environment, reminders and guidelines.
Suggestions from survey respondents included “a campaign or poster that reminds me to get up”; “changes to workplaces, policy at Government level… workplace reward system…” and “the biggest impact would be cultural change, with it becoming normal for people to move around the office as they work…”
The Move More Sit Less website has tips and fun ideas to help everyone take a stand and get moving. It really is time to break up with our chairs for a better quality of life. If you have been sitting for a while, get up and move.
Wendy Gilletts’ experience spans executive roles in both Government and not for profit sector in WA, NSW and Victoria. She has won public sector awards for her work in sport and recreation and industry awards in community services. She has a degree in Human Movement, is an AICD graduate and is passionate about the transformative power of sport, recreation and physical activity.