Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Science of Sitting

By Tim Olds

Sitting for extended periods increases mortality, but is it worth working at a treadmill desk?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The average adult Australian spends about 9.5 hours each day on his or her derrière, about 7.5 hours asleep, about 6.5 hours standing or moving around slowly, and about half an hour walking briskly or exercising.

What do we do in those 9.5 hours of sitting? We spend 3 hours watching TV, 1.5 hours on the computer, an hour eating and another hour travelling, we read for an hour, sit and talk for an hour, plus spend an hour just chilling.

Since the 1930s we’ve been paying a lot of attention to exercise, which occupies scarcely 2% of our day, yet almost no attention to sitting, which takes up 40% of our day. Now there’s a new science of sitting, and it’s spearheaded internationally by Australian researchers like Genevieve Healy and Wendy Brown at the University of Queensland, Adrian Bauman at Sydney University, and David Dunstan at the Baker IDI.

The epidemiological evidence is fairly straightforward: sitting is bad for you. People who sit more, and who sit for prolonged periods with fewer breaks, are more likely to have larger waists, higher blood fats, higher levels of inflammation, and higher all-cause mortality – no matter how much exercise they do.

This is not to say that sitting negates the benefits of exercise. Exercise reduces risk, but at any given level of exercise the risk is greater if you sit more.

In a study of 123,116 US...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.