How living in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ may lead to better health

It’s official. Here’s how much sitting, standing, sleeping and physical activity you should really be doing each day.

Ever wish there was a magic formula for feeling great?

According to new research from Swinburne University of Technology and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, there might just be.

Researchers have studied the habits of thousands of adults to find the healthiest daily balance of sleeping, sitting, standing and moving.

Here is what they found.

The ‘Goldilocks zone’ — and why it matters for optimal health

To uncover the holy grail of daily routines, researchers used thigh trackers to monitor behaviours within a 24-hour period in over 2000 participants aged 40 to 75 for a week.

The data was then compared against six health markers, including blood pressure, blood glucose levels and waist circumference, to determine the optimal amount of time we should spend sitting, standing, sleeping and being physically active each day.

Lead researcher Dr Christian Brakenridge from Swinburne’s Centre for Urban Transitions says these measures are the “Goldilocks zone” that strikes the right balance for better health outcomes.

“It’s important to acknowledge this data is a recommendation for an able adult,” Dr Brakenridge says.

“We all have different considerations and, above all, movement should be enjoyable.”

What does the Goldilocks zone for optimal health look like?

According to the study, this is how you should structure your day to optimise your health.

Sitting: aim for 6 hours

Australians sit for an average of nine hours a day — a whopping three hours more than the study recommendation.

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute study lead Professor David Dunstan says excessive sitting is associated with a range of health risks, particularly heart disease.

“The key takeaway from our study is we should be sitting less, and moving more,” Prof Dunstan says.

Standing: aim for 5 hours and 10 minutes

Most adults spend about 4.9 hours standing, which is not too far short of their recommendation, Prof Dunstan says.

However, while standing is better than sitting, he emphasises the importance of frequent postural changes.

“Standing up is good, moving is better, and moving more briskly is best of all,” Prof Dunstan says.

Low-intensity activity: aim for 2 hours and 10 minutes

Prof Dunstan says most adults average 1.1 hours of low-intensity activity a day, which is not enough.

“This includes any movement that is less than a brisk walk — so things such as pottering around the house or office, housework, gardening or leisurely strolls,” he explains.

Higher-intensity activity: aim for 2 hours and 10 minutes

“Our evidence indicates average moderate to vigorous activity time in Australian adults is only about 1.2 hours,” Prof Dunstan notes.

For better cardiovascular health, get your heart rate up with brisk walking, cycling, swimming or a gym session.

Sleeping: aim for 8 hours and 20 minutes

Poor sleep increases the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

And while government data shows most adults sleep for 7 to 8 hours a day, almost half experience sleep problems.

“Remember, the quality of sleep we are getting is also important,” Prof Dunstan says.

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Written by Dimity Barber.