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Low levels of physical activity are a major risk factor for ill health and mortality from all causes. People who do not do sufficient physical activity have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancers, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Being physically active improves mental and musculoskeletal health and reduces other risk factors such as overweighthigh blood pressure and high blood cholesterol

How much is enough?

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that Australians be active on most, preferably all, days every week. For extra health and fitness, the guidelines recommend some muscle strengthening activities on a least 2 days each week and to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary i.e. prolonged sitting.

These Guidelines are supported by a rigorous evidence review process that considered:

  • the relationship between physical activity (including the amount, frequency, intensity and type of physical activity) and health outcome indicators, including the risk of chronic disease and obesity; and
  • the relationship between sedentary behaviour/sitting time and health outcome indicators, including the risk of chronic disease and obesity.

Go to Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines Evidence Summary.

Go to Risk factors FAQ for information on measuring participation in physical activity.

Further information

How many Australians are insufficiently active?

Physical activity has been identified as an important contributor to maintaining good overall health. The amount of time spent on physical activity has long been a focus for research and policy makers. Low levels of activity are identified as a risk factor for a range of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as being a strong contributor to levels of obesity.

In recent times, the dangers of high levels of sedentary behaviour to overall health have also been recognised in relation to chronic disease and obesity.

Data from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity showed:

  • On average, children and young people aged 5–17 years spent one and a half hours (91 minutes) per day on physical activity and over two hours a day (136 minutes) in screen-based activity with physical activity decreasing and screen-based activity increasing as age increased.
  • Just under half (44%) of all children and young people (2–17 years) had at least one type of screen-based item (e.g. TV, computer, or game console) in their bedroom. 
  • For the 15–17 year olds, three-quarters had some kind of screen-based media in their bedroom and this was associated with them spending an extra two hours per week watching/playing screen-based media compared with those who did not have any such item in their bedroom.
  • Adults spent an average of just over 30 minutes per day doing physical activity. However, against the National Physical Activity Guidelines for adults "to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days", only 43% of adults actually met the "sufficiently active" threshold.
  • Sedentary activity occupied an average 39 hours per week for adults, with close to 10 hours of this sitting at work.
  • Watching TV was the most prevalent sedentary activity, at nearly 13 hours a week, peaking at over 19 hours per week on average for people aged 75 and over. Using the computer or Internet (for non-work purposes) peaked at almost 9 hours per week for 18–24 year olds.