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Sedentary Behaviour

 teenage boys playing tennis

It can be pretty easy these days to kick back and relax. Our everyday lives are full of labour-saving devices, new gadgets and electronic entertainment.

Of course, a lot of sedentary – or ‘still’ – activities have benefits and should be encouraged, like talking with friends and family, reading, hobbies – and getting your homework done!

The real issue is to find the right balance between sedentary and physical activities. Too much sedentary time can be a factor in kids and teens being overweight and obese.

Every week in NSW, students in Year 6 spend about 34 hours of their free time engaged in sedentary activities. For students in Year 8, this figure increases to 41 hours and rises again for Year 10 students (45 hours).

Of all the sedentary pastimes, small screen recreation – watching television or DVDs and playing computer games – is the most popular activity. In NSW, about half of students’ sedentary behaviour involves small screen recreation.

In recent years there has been a big rise in the proportion of homes with TVs in kids’ bedrooms. These changes mean there are more opportunities to watch television. It also leads to more kids and teens being heavy TV viewers.

National guidelines recommend that young people spend no more than two hours each day using electronic media for recreation. In NSW, more than 72% of secondary school students (77% of boys and 67% of girls) spend more than two hours every day in small screen recreation.

While there is good evidence to say that small screen recreation doesn’t replace physical activity among young people, there are still sound reasons to put some brakes on it, especially watching TV.

  • Time spent watching TV, particularly during daylight hours, could be spent playing outside or in other physical activity,
  • When you watch TV you’re more likely to overeat with fatty, high-sugar, ‘junk’ foods.
  • TV viewing habits set in early childhood can follow you into adulthood – and this can have an impact on your body mass index (BMI).

Why not make a deal to keep your body fit and healthy? Even exchanging 30 minutes of TV viewing for some physical activity will deliver real health benefits.