Media releases

August 10, 2009

Australian workers urged to stand up for their futures

Australian workers are risking their health by spending the majority of their workday sitting down, according to a landmark study conducted by Medibank Private.

The Stand Up Australia study, conducted in conjunction with Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, monitored the activity levels of 131 office, call centre and retail workers, revealing an average 77 percent of work time is spent sedentary with very low levels of energy expenditure.

Sedentary lifestyles are considered to be a major contributor to poor health, linked to Type 2 Diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Even after taking into account the full day, and the more active hours before and after work, workers still spent 70 percent of their day sedentary.
Alarmingly, most people surveyed continued to spend significant amounts of time inactive on non-work days, averaging 62% of waking hours engaged in sedentary activities.

According to Medibank's Executive General Manager, Health Management, Julie Andrews, a key finding from the study was the divergence in participants' perceptions of the amount of physical activity they engaged in, versus the amount of activity measured objectively.

"The study used a device called an accelerometer to objectively record the duration and intensity of movement and time, in addition to participant-recorded diaries and questionnaires.

"Two thirds of participants self-reported they were meeting the National Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. However, the objectively measured data recorded by the accelerometers showed that, in fact, only one third were meeting this target.

"We recommend employers explore opportunities to reduce sitting time in the workplace. Simple behavioural interventions such as standing meetings and using the stairs can be effective in getting people up and moving," Ms Andrews said.

Associate Professor David Dunstan, Head of Physical Activity at Baker IDI and a VicHealth Research Fellow, managed the research and analysis with Medibank Private.

"We are now starting to understand that prolonged sitting may be an important contributor to poor health. This may be due to the absence of muscle contractions which are essential for energy expenditure and glucose control.

"The results of the Stand Up Australia study provide important new evidence that the modern workday is largely 'sedentary' and suggests that we now need to understand the extent to which prolonged sitting is an occupational hazard and a contributor to poor health in Australian workers," he said.

For further detail on the Stand Up Australia study, including key findings and methadology please see:

For further information please contact:
James Connors Tel: 03 8622 5163 | Mob: 0433 992 677

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