01.09.2017 Natural Health

Put a Spring in your step

The evidence is mounting that physical inactivity is storing up trouble for Australians of all ages, most alarmingly for our children.

In the past month alone, studies have been released that reveal that up to 3.6 million of us don’t do any exercise at all, that we are in the top 20 of the world’s laziest countries and that sales of children’s bikes have dipped sharply in the past 10 years.

All in all, it’s painting a dismal picture of the impact on our health in years to come from our fixation with devices at the expense of sport and other outdoor pursuits and probably other factors including long commutes, traffic congestion and prioritising work over exercise.

As September ushers in longer hours of daylight to enjoy the great outdoors, experts are boosting their efforts to encourage us to get up from the couch and get moving - and urge our kids to do the same.

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Steptember initiative is urging us to put a spring in our step and achieve the World Health Organisation’s recommended 10,000 steps a day during this month.Currently, we have a long way to go with Aussies averaging just half that amount, making us the 19 most sedentary nation.Steptember’s focus is on energising the workplace where 47% of those surveyed said they’d be much more likely to participate in workplace activities if bosses and colleagues were more supportive.

All funds raised go to help support the 34,000 Australians living with cerebral palsy. Find out more at www.steptember.org.au.

Another challenge has been set for October, the Heart Foundation’s My Marathon.

The Heart Foundation asked 1001 adults about their weight and exercise patterns, and the activity levels of their children. Key findings were that

  • Only 20% of adults meet the national guidelines for enough exercise (30 minutes, five times a week).
  • One 7% of children get the recommended one hour a day of exercise, meaning 600,000 children are inactive.
  • Older Australians are more active than younger Australians.

“Physical inactivity is one of the most significant global health crises. Our survey shows that levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in Australia remain worryingly high, which is a serious threat to our heart health and increases our risk of early death, ” says the Foundation’s CEO Professor John Kelly.

Lack of time was the main reason given by people who did no exercise followed by a lack of enjoyment of exercise and a preference for doing other things. Those who did exercise were motivated first by the desire to lose weight, followed by concern for their appearance, and then concern for their health.

The preferred forms of exercise were walking, followed by going to the gym, jogging or running.

“Making physical activity easier and more accessible for all is vitally important if we are to reduce ill health. That’s why we have launched the MyMarathon challenge - an ideal way for people of all fitness levels to increase their exercise and improve heart health, while raising funds to fight heart disease,” said Prof Kelly.

The MyMarathon challenge encourages people of all fitness levels to run or walk the equivalent of a marathon (42.2 kilometres) in their own time over a month. Money raised will help to fund life-saving research to fight heart disease.

Equivalent to just 20-30 minutes of brisk walking each day, it’s an achievable goal for most people, helping them reach the recommended physical activity levels and improve their own heart health.

The Heart Foundation is also active in another initiative to get kids actively travelling to and from school each day rather than being chauffeured by mum or dad.Bearing up the finding that sales of children’s bikes have dropped by more than 100,000 over the past decade, Victorian research finds two-thirds of five-year-olds and more than half of nine year olds are being driven to school every day.

Prof Kelly said a recent health survey found only seven per cent of children did the recommended one hour per day of exercise – meaning an estimated 600,000 children do not.

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