Aussies choose couch over physical activity: survey


Experts urge adults to move more for good health

Australians are being urged to make the most of opportunities to move as new data reveals most of us prefer to watch TV, read or sleep instead of exercise, leading to an increased risk of chronic health conditions. 

A LiveLighter survey of Australians aged 25-49 found that if given a spare 60 minutes in the day, well over half (57%) would choose a sedentary behaviour.

Heart Foundation Victoria’s Healthy Living Manager Roni Beauchamp said at a time when two thirds [1] of Australian adults are not getting enough physical activity, the findings should come as a real wake-up call.

“Physical inactivity comes with serious health risks, and as a nation we’re doing far too much of it,” Ms Beauchamp said.  

“Australians spend between 50-70% of their waking hours being sedentary, or about 8-12 hours every day [2]. When we combine this with the fact that 66% of adults are not doing enough physical activity, we’ve got a dangerous situation of people moving less.

“A lack of physical activity is associated with a higher mortality rate, a higher risk of obesity and an increased risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.”

According to the survey, the most popular sedentary activity chosen was watching TV (23%), followed by reading a book (14%), sleeping (10%), browsing the internet (7%), and gaming (3%).

Ms Beauchamp said the evidence is clear – ditching screen time and being more active, more often is one of the best things you can do for your heart and your health.

“The simple act of walking for 30 minutes on all or most days of the week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as half – and gradually walking faster, further or for longer only increases the benefit,” she said.

Of those respondents in LiveLighter’s survey who reported not doing enough physical activity to be healthy, 30% said the main barrier was lack of time, followed by a lack of enjoyment of exercise (13%) and a preference for doing things other than physical activity (9%).

LiveLighter Campaign Manager Alison McAleese said the key to being more physically active is to find an activity that you enjoy.

“The physical and mental health benefits of daily exercise are compelling – such as improved management of weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced risk of developing certain cancers and assisting with better management of stress and anxiety,” Ms McAleese said.

“But choosing an activity you like is the first step. Making social occasions more active by going for a walk then a coffee with a friend, or taking the kids on a bike ride is an ideal way to make physical activity more enjoyable.”

Ms McAleese said adults should aim to accumulate 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

“This might be 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking, bike riding or footy with the kids most days of the week. You can also break it down into shorter bouts, such as three 10 minute walks, which works well in the colder months when getting outside can be less appealing,” she said.

LiveLighter’s top tips for staying active when it’s cold and dark outside

  1. Use your lunch break: Victoria has some warmer temperatures in the middle of the day, so make the most of it by going for a walk or jog in your lunchbreak. The fresh air will revive you and help get you through the afternoon.
  2. Work out indoors: Home gym equipment, such as hand weights, a Swiss ball or a medicine ball are great investments for winter. Or turn household items, like water bottles, tinned food and shampoo bottles, into dumbbells. Make a circuit style workout in your living room (where it’s warm). Or head to your local fitness centre for an indoor gym class.
  3. Brighten up your body and mind: If the cold, dark days are making you miserable, embark on an endorphin-pumping brisk walk, cycle or jog! It’s not called a runner’s high for nothing…
  4. Make it a social event: Grab a mate to work out with or join a running group, local indoor netball, volleyball or soccer team to keep you committed through the cold months.
  5. Do some incidental exercise: Walk to the shops, get off public transport a few stops early, take the stairs – do whatever you can to make incidental exercise part of your daily routine.
  6. Last but not least, stay safe: When the days are wet and dark, wear bright colours, stick to well-lit footpaths and roads, wear reflective gear and, if possible, take a friend.

About LiveLighter

Delivered by the Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation, LiveLighter is a public health education campaign which encourages Victorians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. For more healthy tips, recipes and advice visit

[1] Tolhurst, P et al., Australia’s Health Tracker. Melbourne: The Australian Health Policy Collaboration; May 2017

[2]  The Boden Institute et al., Evidence brief - Obesity: Sedentary behaviours and health. Report prepared for the Australian National Preventative Health Agency; 2014