Ideal Daily Activity Rates For Optimal Health Revealed

Optimal 24hr time use

How a 24-hour cycle should be broken up into time spent sitting, sleeping, standing and doing physical activity has been revealed.

The new research, led by study author Christian Brakenridge from Swinburne University's Centre for Urban Transitions, and Baker Institute Head of Physical Activity Professor David Dunstan, has established the "Goldilocks" time periods for each activity to achieve optimal cardiometabolic health and glycaemic control.

The ideal daily balance is:

  • six hours of sitting
  • five hours and 10 minutes of standing
  • eight hours and 20 minutes of sleeping
  • two hours and 10 minutes of light-intensity physical activity
  • two hours and 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

Light-intensity physical activity could include activities like household chores or tending to a garden, while moderate-to-vigorous physical activity involves more intentional movement such as a brisk walk or gym workout.

The time breakdowns identified in the study of more than 2000 people's behaviours represent a "Goldilocks zone" that strike a balance between various health outcomes, Dr Brackenridge said.

"For different health markers, from waist circumference to fasting glucose, there would be different levels for each behaviour," he said. "This breakdown encompasses a wide range of health markers and converges on the 24 hours associated with overall optimal health."

For example, the research findings suggest that replacing time spent sitting with greater time in physical activity, especially light-intensity physical activity, was associated with more beneficial blood glucose measures in those with type 2 diabetes than those without.

Dr Brakenridge says that his research could be used by the Federal Government when it releases its new activity guidelines, which currently only include wide parameters around exercise and intensity.

While many guidelines do not consider how different behaviours overlaps and interact, Dr Brakenridge's research acknowledges the nuances of how one activity impacts the rest of the day.

"Sleeping may be detrimental to health if it replaces exercise time, but beneficial if it replaces sedentary behaviour. This is why we need integrated guidelines considering the full spectrum of human behaviour," he said.

"People may advocate for more time exercising, though it's not feasible to have 10 hours of exercise and zero hours of sedentary behaviour — the time use has to be realistic and balanced."

"Of course, moving as much as you can is always encouraged when so much of life requires us to be sitting in front of screens. Shorter sitting time and more time spent standing, undergoing physical activity and sleeping give great boosts to our cardiometabolic health."

"It's also important to acknowledge that this data is a recommendation for an able adult. We all have different considerations, and above all, movement should be fun."

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