Physical activity: more thought, but less action

For most Australians knowledge does not equal action when it comes to being more active, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Physical Activity Patterns of Australian Adults shows that 88% of Australians aged 18-75 believe they can be healthier by being more active, and 92% believe their health could be improved by doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.

Yet the average amount of time spent each week walking, and doing moderate and vigorous physical activity, has fallen in recent years.

The decrease in vigorous activity was particularly marked, from an average of 91 minutes per person each week in 1997 to 65 minutes in 1999.

There was also a fall in the proportion of Australians doing enough physical activity to provide a health benefit.

The falls in activity were accompanied by a continuing high level of overweight and obesity in the community (44%).

Physical Activity Patterns of Australian Adults will be launched by Robert de Castella at Parliament House, Canberra, on Thursday 31 August.

Mr de Castella said that with the Olympics in our sights, it is a good time for Australians to focus on being an active nation.

'Physical inactivity ranks second only to tobacco smoking as a health risk factor.'

'The flip side is that moderate activity has important benefits for physical and mental health. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer, and can contribute to feelings of enthusiasm for life and a sense of well-being.'

'It also reduces the risk of falls and injuries in the elderly', he said.

'And, physical activity doesn't have to cost a lot-when you look at the potential benefits, it's hard to beat in terms of value for money.'

'One of the pleasing findings in this report is that older Australians-those aged 60 years and over-did not show any declines in participation in sufficient physical activity. There was also no rise in their levels of physical inactivity.'

Report co-author Dr Tim Armstrong said that although participation in physical activity overall tends to decline with age, people in the 60-75 age group, especially men, were more likely than average to participate in moderate physical activity.

'It is possible that at retirement-around 60 years of age-people have more time to do some physical activity', he said.

31 August 2000

Further information: Dr Tim Armstrong (co-author), tel. 02 6244 1129 (Interviews with Robert de Castella can be arranged through Dr Armstrong).

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.

Note: Physical Activity Patterns of Australian Adults will be launched by Robert de Castella at 10.30 am on Thursday 31 August 2000, at the House of Representatives Alcove, Parliament House, Canberra. All media welcome. (Enquiries about the launch: Michelle Wells, 02 6244 1012)