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Tips from the longest-living populations in the world

‘The Blue Zones’ are populations that experience longer, healthier and fuller lives. You might have heard of some of these before, as scientists love to study their behaviours to try to understand what contributes to their longevity. The Blue Zones include Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California, where people are three times more likely to live to 100 than Australians. People living in Blue Zones enjoy much longer lives and lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and dementia compared to that seen in the Western world – Tim Crowe, Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University And what is common amongst the people of The Blue Zones? They lead naturally non-sedentary lives, often moving every 30 minutes or so. While Australians understand the need for exercise, what we aim to do with the BeUpstanding Toolkit is to help people in sedentary jobs move more throughout the day. It’s these small changes to behaviour that can have a big impact on health and wellbeing!

What is sedentary behaviour and how common is it?

Sedentary behaviour refers to any waking activity characterised by low energy expenditure and a sitting or reclining posture. Common sedentary behaviours include sitting while watching television, driving a car or working at your computer. In Australian office workplaces, sitting behaviour is so common that over three-quarters of the work day is spent sitting, with much of this sitting time accrued in long, unbroken bouts of 30 minutes or more.Further, workplace sitting is the largest contributor to an office worker’s overall daily sitting time. We at BeUpstanding can see the potential in reducing sitting in Australian workplaces to improve health outcomes, as well as overall wellbeing, for a healthier, happier workforce.

What happens when we sit for too long?

When you sit you are spending very little energy and your large postural muscles aren’t working very hard. This means your metabolism starts to slow down which can lead to poor health outcomes in both the short and long term. Too much sitting has been linked to an increased number of musculoskeletal conditions, as well as increased risk of overweight or obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and premature death. Time to stand up?

Consider your activity across the whole day

It is well recognised that doing regular exercise has several benefits for your physical and mental health. We should all be aiming to meet physical activity guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day. However, for most adults, exercise constitutes only a small proportion of the day – it is also important to think about the rest of the day. If you spend most of the rest of the time sitting, you may be increasing your risk for poor health. Time to stand up?

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