Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Stand-up - the risks of sitting all day

Download PDFDownload PDF


Health Stand-up—the risks of sitting all day Mandy Biggs A new study builds on the growing body of evidence that sitting

for long periods is associated with a range of chronic conditions.

The study, undertaken by researchers at the University of Western Sydney, specifically examined the sitting habits of over 63,000 middle aged Australian males and the association of sitting times with a presence of chronic diseases.

Using participants randomly sampled from the 45 and Up study, a large cohort of individuals from across NSW, the study asked participants to report on their time spent sitting and whether they had a chronic condition, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes or hypertension. They were also asked about their weekly levels of physical activity. While nearly 81% reported 150 minutes of physical activity a week—within recommended guidelines—nearly a third reported sitting for eight or more hours a day. Nearly 72% were overweight or obese.

Those reporting sitting for more than four hours a day, were significantly more likely to report having a chronic condition. Prolonged periods of sitting were significantly associated with the presence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Even after adjusting for variables, such as being

overweight, longer sitting times were still significantly associated with chronic conditions. The researchers could not determine if the length of the sitting time was a causal factor, or was an outcome of the person’s condition. However, they point to previous research which found that higher rates of sitting times are a risk factor for diabetes.

As reported in a recent Parliamentary Library FlagPost, a number of recent studies highlight the risk of sedentary behaviour, including prolonged sitting. A VicHealth study pointed to associations between time spent sitting

Source: US Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons


Page 16 of 29


and premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, elevated levels of insulin, blood glucose and blood pressure, and even mental illness. A detailed analysis of survey data from those aged 45 or older in NSW found that prolonged sitting was responsible for 6.9% of all deaths among over 45s, independent of other risk factors, including body mass index (BMI).

Another study analysed data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which indicated that reducing sitting to under three hours a day would add an extra two years to life expectancy.

Prolonged sitting can damage our health because sedentary behaviour adversely impacts on the body by interfering with the body’s metabolic functions, which regulate our insulin and cholesterol levels. Elevated insulin and cholesterol levels are linked to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. While standing requires our muscles to constantly contract in order to balance the body, such preventive muscle activity is absent while sitting. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is another risk of prolonged sitting.

So the next time a long period of sitting looms in your work day, here are some simple tips to reduce your sitting time and your risk factors. If you drive or bus to work, park the car further away or alight one stop early. Structure more breaks in your day, walk over to a colleague’s desk to talk rather than calling or texting, stand up to answer phone calls or read reports, take the stairs rather than the lift, stand and stretch regularly, suggest standing meetings or if in a small group suggest a walking meeting. Consider trading in your sitting desk

for a standing desk or improve your balance by sitting on a fitness ball, and finally, get others involved—suggest a lunchtime walking group around the House and its gardens.

Abolition of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Authority

On 7 March 2014 the Government announced that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Authority (PBPA) would cease operations from 1 April 2014. The Department of Health stated that this will result in a ‘new streamlined process to reduce the time taken to list medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and improve access to medicines’. The PBPA is currently responsible for reviewing the prices of items supplied under the PBS and vaccines on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and advising on the pricing of new items that are recommended for listing on the PBS or the NIP.

Changing the approach to mental health A mental health report published in March by the Inspire Foundation warns that, based on its analysis, a business-as-usual approach to mental health will require an additional investment of $9 billion over the next 15 years. Alternatively, if the Government was to reconceptualise its investment to provide appropriate intervention in a more timely manner to those who currently miss out on care, the provision of mental health services would move to a more sustainable footing.


Page 17 of 29