Sedentary Behaviour and its Health Risks

April 2022

Sedentary behaviour is simply defined as ‘too much sitting’.

Sedentary behaviour are activities where you spend a lot of time not using energy. These can include, sleeping, lying down, sitting, watching television, and playing on the computer. Finding a balance between resting painful joints or pacing activities, and limiting sedentary behaviours where possible can help our arthritis management.

Approximately 55% of Australian adults do not meet the physical activity guidelines. Almost 45% of working-age adults spend most of their workday sitting.

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to long-term health consequences. These can include weight gain, especially around the stomach, a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), reduced bone mass and increased cardiovascular risk.  These health risks can also be associated with conditions like type-2 diabetes.

Sedentary Behaviour and Arthritis  

Recently published studies examined the link between sedentary behaviour health risks, and arthritis. A Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) study found increased sedentary time may worsen inflammation. Increased inflammation may cause a loss of muscle mass and reduced ability to do day-to-day activities. Sedentary behaviour may also be linked to lower bone mass in RA. This can lead to the development of osteoporosis later in life. If you would like more information on osteoporosis, read our article on Osteoporosis and Inflammatory Arthritis here.

Another study examined the link between sedentary behaviour and osteoarthritis (OA). Many people with OA can often be unsure about doing physical activity in case it aggravates the joint. However, spending lots of time being sedentary was linked to limited function in knee OA. People who were the most sedentary found if difficult to do day-to-day activities without pain. Whereas people who incorporated physical activity in their day had less pain and better knee function. Day-to-day activities, such as, cleaning, shopping, vacuuming, and gardening all improved knee joint function. 

So how can we decrease sedentary behaviour?

Begin light physical activity and exercise by

Walking -
Walking is one of the most effective means of reducing the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Walking not only helps with minimising pain and stiffness, it is great for our joints.
Walking has amazing benefits for our health and wellbeing.
Read our article for more information on walking and its benefits here

Water Exercise -
Water exercise, or hydrotherapy, involves exercise in a heated pool. It is one of the most comfortable and effective ways that someone with arthritis can exercise.
The joints and muscles can be exercised while supported in the water.
Read our article for more information on water exercise here

Our Online Arthritis Moves Program -
Arthritis Moves aims to increase strength and flexibility in participants. This can help to decrease arthritis symptoms like joint pain and fatigue.
Each week you can join our class from the comfort of your own home with an instructor coaching you through a live exercise session.
Follow the link for more information on our class times and registering for a class

Increase exercise at work and home
Sitting all day at work increases the amount of time you spend being sedentary. If you are needing to take a little break every couple of hours to incorporate some exercises into your day (as well as loosen up those joints), this article has some fantastic work exercises you can do each day. It covers your neck and shoulders, wrist, and lower limbs

See an exercise professional –
Exercise Physiologists are university qualified health professionals. They prescribe exercise for people to better manage their health, or a specific condition (like arthritis).
An Exercise Physiologist can work with you to develop a tailored exercise program that is safe and suitable for your individual needs.
We have a great article written by an Exercise Physiologist on Exercise and Arthritis

Its important to know:

Doing little physical activity over time can contribute to pain, stiffness, balance problems, and less strength. All of these can increase our risk of falls. When we have less strength, especially in our weight bearing joints (knees, hips, feet), we can't support our weight very well.  

People with arthritis may find it difficult or painful to exercise. But, research shows that regular exercise is one of the best treatments for arthritis.

Exercise can help to improve movement of joints, muscle strength, and balance. It can also help to decrease pain, fatigue, and muscle tension.

Read more about physical activity and arthritis in our Arthritis Insights and Information Sheets.  

How can we help? 



Always talk to your doctor and/or health professional before starting an exercise program. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can suggest safe exercises and make sure you are doing your exercises correctly.


  • Australian Government Department of Health. About Physical Activity and Exercise. May 2021.
  • Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behaviour: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc 2010;85:1138–41.
  • Fenton S, Veldhuijzen van Zanten J, Duda JL, Metsios GS, Kitas G. Sedentary behaviour in rheumatoid arthritis: definition, measurement and implications for health. Rheumatology 2018;57:2:213-26
  • Lee J, Chang RW, Ehrlich-Jones L, Kwoh CK, Nevitt M, Semanik PA, Sharma L, Sohn MW, Song J, Dunlop DD. Sedentary behavior and physical function: objective evidence from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2015 Mar;67(3):366-73.