Australians are sitting down and lying around so much, experts have doubled the recommended amount of exercise and say we need to get up out of our chairs – even if we already do “enough” exercise.
More and more studies are finding links between “sedentary behaviour” and weight gain, type 2 diabetes, poor muscle tone, heart disease and dying earlier. The new guidelines are the first to explicitly address our love of lounging and our habit of sitting at work.
The latest advice is to ‘mix and match’ a range of activities, and to think of exercise as simple habits that can be built into your day, rather than organised sport or structured activities like going to the gym.
What are the new guidelines?
The Government’s new guidelines are called the Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week
Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting. Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
What is ‘sedentary behaviour’?
Being ‘sedentary’ means sitting or lying down for long periods (not including sleeping). So, a person can do enough physical activity to meet the guidelines and still be considered sedentary if they spend a large amount of their day sitting or lying down at work, at home, for study, for travel or during their leisure time.
ABC Health and Wellbeing’s Claudine Ryan explains
Experts say we’re sedentary on average for seven to 10 hours a day (and this doesn’t include our time spent sleeping). Even if you are meeting, or exceeding, the recommended 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity physical activity, you can still be considered sedentary. (This group of people is sometimes referred to as ‘active couch potatoes’.)
While researchers are still trying to understand exactly why sedentary behaviour has such a negative effect on our health, it appears to be related to how our bodies process fats and sugars. There are enzymes involved in this process that are released when certain muscles contract during standing. When you sit for prolonged periods the production and activity of these enzymes appears to slow down.