A new study sets a timetable for optimal daily activity.

An international research team has released compelling findings on daily activity balances that optimise health. 

The study involved detailed analysis of the 24-hour activity patterns of over 2,000 individuals to establish guidelines for ideal daily time allocation across various activities including sitting, standing, sleeping, and different intensities of physical exercise.

The study concludes that the optimal daily routine for maintaining good health includes:

  • Six hours of sitting

  • Five hours and 10 minutes of standing

  • Eight hours and 20 minutes of sleeping

  • Two hours and 10 minutes of light-intensity physical activity

  • Two hours and 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity

Light-intensity activities can range from household chores to making dinner, whereas moderate-to-vigorous activities are more structured, like brisk walking or gym sessions. 

Australian researcher Dr Christian Brakenridge refers to these activity proportions as the “Goldilocks zone”, balancing time to optimally affect various health markers such as waist circumference and blood glucose levels.

Dr Brakenridge says he hopes these findings will inform the Federal Government's upcoming revisions to physical activity guidelines. 

Current guidelines offer broad suggestions on exercise intensity and duration but do not address the integration of different activities throughout the day.

“Sleeping may be detrimental to health if it replaces exercise time, but beneficial if it replaces sedentary behaviour. This is why we need integrated guidelines considering the full spectrum of human behaviour,” Dr Brakenridge explained.

The study also found that substituting sitting time with physical activity yields particularly significant health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. 

These findings underline the importance of tailored health recommendations that accommodate the varying needs of the population.

Dr Brakenridge stressed the importance of realistic and balanced activity guidelines, acknowledging the impracticality of eliminating sedentary time entirely in modern lifestyles, which often involve prolonged periods in front of screens. 

He says any kind of movement throughout the day will enhance cardiometabolic health.

The full study is accessible here.