Surprise surprise, teens spend most of their time sitting around

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  Last updated June 27, 2019 at 5:23 pm

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According to new research, Australian teenagers spend most of their waking hours sitting down increasing their risk of health problems.


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Researchers are worried about the amount of time teenagers spend sitting.


Researchers say that Australian teenagers sit more than two-thirds of the day, increasing their risk of physical and social health problems.


The study by Deakin University, published in the journal BMC Public Health, tracked nearly 400 students at 18 Victorian high schools using ‘activPALTM‘ wearable devices.


The devices measured not only movement, but also differentiated between time spent sitting, standing and lying during different periods of the day.


School lessons makes up 75 per cent of sitting time


Lead author Lauren Arundell from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University, says the highest percentage of sitting time occurred during class, where students sat for 75 per cent of the time.


This was followed by evenings, where students sat for 73 per cent of time.


Arundell says she hoped the data from her study would help inform the times of day where interventions are needed to get teenagers sitting less and moving more.


“Our data suggests that the school timetable is an important contributor to adolescent sitting patterns,” she says.


“The introduction of standing or active class lessons, 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.”


Homework and recreational habits also need to be addressed


While classes make up a large portion of the day for teenagers, Arundell also says that after-school habits need to be looked at.


“We also need to look at ways to make homework and recreation time less sedentary as teenagers spend almost three-quarters of the evening period between 6pm and 10pm sitting.”


Arundell says this could be through modifying homework to incorporate more group or creative activities that require movement, and by encouraging teenagers to move as often as possible.


“Teens are typically driven to school, sit at school, driven home, do their homework, and then watch TV or play video games and go to bed. That equates to far too much sitting time and is only exacerbated by the ubiquity of personal devices,” she says.


“While there’s no specific target for a healthy amount of sitting time, 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. At the moment less than one in three teenagers are meeting that goal.”


Long periods of sitting are detrimental to health


Arundell said there was emerging evidence that long periods of sitting are detrimental to physical, social and mental health.


“Recent studies have shown that teens who break up their sitting have lower diabetes risk factors than peers who remain sitting,” she says.


One of 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.


“Conversely, evidence also shows that kids who sit less and move more have better academic outcomes,” she says.


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