Skip to main content
people walking and cycling
News_

Swap the couch for a walk to avoid an early death

1 October 2015
New study reveals the startling impact of sedentary behaviour

Swapping just one hour of sitting with walking or other physical activity each day decreases your chance of an early death by 12 to 14 per cent, according to a University of Sydney study of more than 200,000 Australians.

The results of the study show that inactivity is an even bigger public health challenge than we initially thought.
Associate Professor Stamatakis

The landmark study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, is the first to examine the impact of time spent on activities like sitting, standing, sleeping or walking on mortality.
 
It reveals that swapping even one hour of daily sitting with standing is linked to a five per cent reduction in the risk of premature death.
 
Lead author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Charles Perkins Centre said with only 24 hours in each day, the study shows we must choose to spend our time wisely.
 
“Previous research established the benefits of adequate physical activity or sleep and the risks of too much sitting, but this is the first to look at what happens when we replace one activity with an equal amount of another,” said Associate Professor Stamatakis.
 
“The results show that inactivity is an even bigger public health challenge than we initially thought.
 
“With the average person sitting watching two to three hours of TV a day, there is definitely scope for people to get off the couch and be more active.
 
“But it’s also time for governments to realise that physical activity cannot be treated as the sole responsibility of individuals because we live in a physical activity-hostile world.
 
“Finger-pointing at people because they do not do the right thing has not solved any health problem to date and it is not going to solve the problem of inactivity either.”
 
The study used statistical modelling of health-related data from the more than 200,000 randomly sampled middle-aged and older people from New South Wales who took part in the 45 and Up Study over a four-year period.
 
The researchers also found that replacing one hour of sitting with sleeping each day, in those who aren’t getting enough sleep, was linked to a six per cent decrease in risk of premature death.
 
However, risk of an early death was increased by between 13 and 17 per cent when one hour of daily walking or exercise was substituted with equal amounts of sitting or any other sedentary activity.
 
“The important thing for people to remember is the more you move the better, even if this movement is incidental or at a light intensity,” said Associate Professor Stamatakis.
 
“It doesn’t have to be formal exercise in a gym, it can be as simple as kicking a ball with your kids in the backyard, going for a walk in the neighbourhood instead of watching another hour of TV, or walking your dog for an extra half an hour a day.
 
“But we also need a long-term vision that makes physical activity the easy and convenient option.
 
“This means better infrastructure like more cycleways, better connected parks, and better public transport so physical activity becomes an integral part of people’s daily lives.”
 
The study is led by the University of Sydney in collaboration with University College London, San Diego State University and the National Cancer Institute, USA.
 

Related articles

23 June 2016

Australia 20 years after gun reform: no mass shootings, declining firearm deaths

Since major gun law reform 20 years ago, Australia has seen no mass shootings and an accelerating decline in intentional firearm deaths, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports today.

23 June 2016

New insights into the causes of sudden cardiac death in the young revealed

Sudden cardiac death claims the lives of 2-3 young Australians every week. 

28 June 2016

Are itchier insect bites more likely to make us sick?

New research suggests the worse our reactions to mosquito bites are, the more likely it is we’ll get sick, says Dr Cameron Webb.

15 June 2016

How can we make sense of the Orlando shooting?

As the world mourns the tragic loss of 50 lives, how can we answer the questions around homophobia and mental health raised by the Orlando shooting? Our researchers appeared on ABC’s The Drum to discuss the complex debate. 

13 December 2016

Confidence boost linked to weight loss in smartphone trial

Confidence is key when motivating young people to change their diet and exercise habits, new research from the University of Sydney shows.

13 December 2016

Sydney alum off to Stanford as Monash scholar

University of Sydney alumnus Dr Martin Seneviratne has been named the 2017 Roden Cutler NSW John Monash Scholar. The award will see Dr Seneviratne head to Stanford University to continue his ground-breaking work into clinical informatics.

14 December 2016

Brain structure best explains our dwindling tolerance of risk

Nature findings will improve understanding of decision-making, as global demographics shift toward an aged population. 

14 December 2016

Exotic mosquitoes a clear and present danger for Australians

Fears of outbreaks of Zika and dengue due to Australian travellers visiting affected countries this summer.

08 December 2016

Minister Ley launches Psychology clinics in Brain and Mind Centre

Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Sussan Ley today launched the one-stop-shop psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience clinics, touring the new facilities leading the way in multidisciplinary brain and mind care.

12 December 2016

Child mummy offers revised history of smallpox

A child mummy from the 17th century, found in a crypt underneath a Lithuanian church, was discovered to harbour the oldest known sample of the variola virus that causes smallpox.