Aussie workers sitting more, moving less

  • Written by Karl Liebich

30 March 2015. The health of a generation of workers is at risk with new data analysis revealing the full extent of Australians’ physical inactivity at work, the National Heart Foundation warned today.


New Heart Foundation analysis of data drawn from the Australian Health Survey 2011-13, reveals that nearly one in two full-time workers (47%) spend more than three quarters of their time at work sitting.


Heart Foundation CEO, Mary Barry, said the figures reflected the growing physical inactivity crisis, with increasing numbers of Australians either desk-bound at work or couch-dwelling at home.


“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that in Australia, as in a number of other western countries, we are facing an epidemic of sedentary behaviour,” Ms Barry said.


“We are spending too much time sitting down in front of computer screens at work, without a thought for the long-term consequences to our health.


“These are as serious as they are costly, with physical inactivity contributing to almost one-quarter (24%) of the burden of heart disease in Australia, causing an estimated 14,000 deaths and costing the health budget an estimated $1.5 billion ever year.


“And it’s not just about physical health either, with the pressure of a modern workplace environment combined with prolonged inactivity, a recipe for poor mental health.


“We have to become smarter in how we address sedentary behaviour at work and support workers to become more physically active over the course of a working day.”


Among those Australians working:


  • A minimum of 35 hours a week, 22% (or 1.35 million) spend at least 35 hours sitting at work;
  • Between 31.5 and 35 hours a week, 13% spent between 31.5 and 35 hours sitting at work;
  • Between 28 and 31.5 hours a week, 15% spent between 28 and 31.5 hours sitting at work;
  • Between 24.5 and 28 hours a week, 14% spent between 24.5 and 28 hours sitting at work;
  • Between 21 and 24.5 hours a week, 11% spent between 21 and 24.5 hours sitting at work;
  • Between 17.5 and 21 hours a week, 20% spent between 17.5 and 21 hours sitting at work.


Ms Barry said a focus on encouraging Australian workers to become more physically active will also benefit business.


“We know that healthier workers are happier, more productive and take fewer sick days,” she said.


Ms Barry said the the development of a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Strategy is needed to help Australian workers become more physically active.


“There is simply too much at stake for us to remain oblivious to the very real health harms caused by physical inactivity,” she said.


“As such, the Heart Foundation will continue its strong advocacy for the development of a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Strategy sooner rather than later.”

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