Five ways teens can cut their sedentary time

New research is showing that teenagers are falling prey to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle – spending more than two-thirds of their day sitting down.


New research is showing that teenagers are falling prey to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle – spending more than two-thirds of their day sitting down.

And the less active you are, the more potential there is for future physical, social and mental health implications, says Dr Lauren Arundell from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN).

“What we are seeing is that in a typical day, teenagers are driven to school, sit at school, are driven home, do their homework, then watch TV, play video games or scroll on their phones, and go to bed”  – Dr Arundell

“We know that in general, we’re becoming more sedentary as a population, but this is the first time a study has specifically looked at how much time Australian teenagers spend sitting during different times of the day,” Dr Arundell said.

The study tracked nearly 400 students at 18 Victorian high schools using special wearable devices, which measure not only movement but also differentiate between time spent sitting, standing and lying during different periods of the day.

Class time was the biggest concern, with teenagers sitting for 75 per cent of the time in class. This was closely followed by the evenings, where 73 per cent of time was spent sitting down.

Australian guidelines recommend that youth limit their recreational screen time to less than two hours per day and break up periods of sitting as often as possible. Dr Arundell said fewer than one in four Australian teenagers are currently meeting that goal.

“There is emerging evidence that long periods of sitting can have physical, social and mental health implications,” Dr Arundell said.

“For example, recent studies have shown that teens who break up their sitting have lower diabetes risk factors than peers who remain sitting.”

Another of Dr Arundell’s studies, published late last year, also found that teenagers who spent more time participating in sedentary behaviours – specifically screen time, computer/video game use and homework – had lower social connectedness.

“Evidence also shows that kids who sit less and move more have better academic outcomes,” she said.

“And, just like adults, as more and more teenagers become glued to their mobile phones and digital tablets they have less reason to move.”

Dr Arundell said we need to look at how we can cut down on sitting time to help prevent social and health problems in the future.

“Introducing active class lessons and homework, where students are encouraged to stand and move around while completing their work, can be an effective way of getting students to sit less and move more at school and home,” she said.

“Deakin IPAN pioneered Transform-US! which is a great program helping teachers to incorporate movement and break up sitting in class in Victorian primary schools. It would be fantastic if we could broaden that to use similar strategies in secondary schools as well.”


Teens on the move – ideas to break up sitting time:

      • Dynamic or active class lessons – encouraging students to get up and move around while in the classroom
      • Get creative with homework tasks: modify homework to incorporate more group activities or activities that require standing and moving
      • Use your phone for good: set up regular reminders on your phone to stand and have regular active breaks
      • Think about ways to be active in front of a screen, such as doing some stretches on the floor while watching TV or during the ads
      • Walk and talk: stand up or walk around while talking on your phone

Click here for more information about Deakin IPAN’s research into physical activity and nutrition or follow us on Twitter @DeakinIPAN