Stop sitting still!

02 March 2014

The new national Physical Activity Guidelines urge Australians to increase their activity levels.

Australian adults and children need to move around much more than they do, according to the Australian Government’s updated ‘Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines’ released this month.

The updated guidelines provide recommendations for 5-17 years and 18-64 years. The recommendations for 0-5 year olds and those aged over 65 years were not updated.

Researchers from Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN), played a key role in the updating of the children’s component of the Guidelines. Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon, Associate Professor Anna Timperio, Dr Nicky Ridgers, Dr Trina Hinkley and Dr Kylie Hesketh were part of a team commissioned by the Australian Government to review the scientific evidence and develop the recommendations.

A major change in the revised guidelines for children and youth is a recommendation that as part of the one hour of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity recommended per day, children and youth should engage in activities that strengthen muscle and bone on three days of the week.

“This doesn’t mean children have to start lifting weights,” said Professor Salmon. “It means doing resistance-based and weight-bearing activities such as sit-ups, push-ups, lunges and squats, which can be easily done at home, and activities such as running, jumping and playing sports.”

“Evidence suggests that childhood is a critical period for laying down healthy bones. Strength training at an early age will help reduce children’s likelihood of developing osteoporosis later in life,” she said.

Recommendations for limiting child and youth engagement in sedentary behaviours have also been revised. In addition to the existing guideline to limit the use of electronic media (i.e. television, computers, and seated electronic games) to no more than two hours a day, a new recommendation is that children and youth need to break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

“Long periods of sitting are associated with poorer health and cognitive outcomes,” said Professor Salmon. “Children and youth can spend a lot of time sitting at home, school, work and whilst travelling,” she said.  “We’re currently testing strategies for reducing sitting time such as the introduction of activity breaks during lessons and the delivery of standing lessons whilst at school, as well as doing active homework.  Another key opportunity to reduce sitting time is whilst travelling. A simple message for families is to consider if it’s possible to include some activity during a journey. For example, riding to school or walking to the bus stop to catch the bus instead of being driven.”

The new Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines can be accessed at

Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon

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