From reducing risk of illness and disease, to potentially saving our healthcare system millions of dollars, a new model developed by Institute for Health Transformation members has shown that reducing sitting time has benefits for many Australians.

An increasing amount of public health research demonstrates that excessive time spent sitting is detrimental to health. There is now good evidence that sedentary behaviour is associated with chronic illness such as diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Excessive time spent sitting is prevalent among Australian adults; the most recent Australian National Health Survey reports that approximately 44 per cent of adults describe their work day as mostly involving sitting.

In an Australian-first, a new health and economic model has estimated that if all Australian adults reduced the time that they spent sitting to no more than 4 hours per day, they could save the Australian healthcare system approximately $185million AUD per year and collectively gain 17,211 health adjusted life years.

Health adjusted life years, or HALYs, are a measurement that considers the combined impact of death and disability on a population’s health. Public health interventions commonly seek to increase a population’s HALYs by addressing behavioural risk factors such as excessive sitting and physical inactivity that causes or increases risk of death and disease.

Developed by researchers from Deakin Health Economics at the Institute for Health Transformation (IHT), the Australian sedentary behaviour model estimates the potential health benefits and healthcare cost savings associated with reduced sitting time across the Australia population.

Practical application of the model will assist decision-makers to prioritise investment in preventative public health initiatives, says IHT member and lead researcher, Phuong (Pam) Nguyen.

“This model shows that there are potentially substantial benefits of interventions that reduce sedentary behaviour,” she said.

Smaller scale reductions in sitting times may also reap significant rewards the model has shown.

“Under a more feasible scenario, where sitting time was reduced by approximately 36 min per person per day, the healthcare cost savings could reach $39million per year,” Ms Nguyen said.

“In the same scenario, the potential health adjusted life years gained were estimated to be 3,670.”

An article detailing the development of the model has been published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.