Healthy living

Sedentary behaviour

Girl laying down reading book

Sedentary behaviour is sitting or lying down (except when sleeping). Many people spend large amounts of time being sedentary while:

Being sedentary is not the same as not getting enough physical activity. Even if you are doing enough physical activity, sitting for more than 7 to 10 hours a day is bad for your health. 


Importance of limiting sedentary time

There is evidence that spending a lot of time being sedentary is linked to an increase in health problems such as:

  • being overweight or obese
  • poor self esteem
  • decreased academic performance
  • type 2 diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • injuries and pain to neck, back and shoulders.
Recommendations for sedentary behaviour

The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (external site) recommend limits on sedentary behaviour for all children and adults:

Children 0-5 years (external site)

0-2 years:

  • no more than 1 hour at a time being sedentary, restrained or inactive
  • no screen time .

2-5 years:

  • no more than 1 hour at a time being sedentary, restrained or inactive
  • no more than 60 minutes per day of screen time.

Children 5-12 years (external site)

Young people 13-17 years (external site)

  • minimise time spent sitting or lying down
  • no more than 2 hours per day of screen time.

Adults 18-64 years (external site)

  • minimise time spent sitting or lying
  • break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
Ways to limit sedentary behaviour

Around the house

  • Stand up to change TV channels.
  • Stand or walk around while talking on the phone.
  • Stand up and move while watching TV.
  • Listen to audio books while you walk, clean or work in the garden.
  • When tidying up, put things away in lots of small trips.

See more tips for getting active at home (external site).

In the office

  • Take the stairs at every opportunity.
  • Deliver messages by walking instead of email.
  • Schedule walking meetings.
  • Take your lunch outside or walk during lunch.
  • Stand up to read at work, or use a standing desk.
  • Set a reminder on your computer to get up and move more often.

Getting places

  • Stand or walk around while waiting for public transport.
  • Break up long car trips with rest breaks.
  • Walk or cycle to school (external site) or work (external site). Or, if it’s too far, drive some of the way and then walk or cycle the rest.
  • When taking public transport, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
See more information on travel choices (external site).

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • Even if you are doing enough physical activity, being sedentary is bad for you.
  • Limit leisure time sedentary activities, like watching TV for entertainment.
  • Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

Acknowledgements
Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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