Just 30 min­utes of leisure ac­tiv­ity each day can make a world of dif­fer­ence

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - CHRIS TZAR

IT’S a sad state of af­fairs when a client tells me they can’t fit 30 min­utes of leisure ac­tiv­ity into their rou­tine at least five days per week. Yet a re­cent na­tional sur­vey of more than 16,000 Aus­tralians, pub­lished on­line by the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Obe­sity , shows that about 75 per cent of our adult pop­u­la­tion fails to meet even this min­i­mum rec­om­men­da­tion for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

The di­rect health­care cost at­trib­uted to in­ac­tiv­ity is es­ti­mated at $1.5 bil­lion a year, based on an­nual health ex­pen­di­tures ob­served dur­ing the pe­ri­ods 2000 to 2004. The au­thors of the study ar­gued that if in­ac­tiv­ity ac­counts for 2.5 per cent of the to­tal an­nual health ex­pen­di­ture, then the pro­por­tional in­vest­ment by the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in pub­lic health pro­grams tar­get­ing low ac­tiv­ity lev­els should be $200 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

How­ever, this is clearly not hap­pen­ing. When you con­sider the greater im­pact of in­di­rect costs such as de­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity, re­quired car­ers and sec­ondary com­pli­ca­tions that dwarf the $1.5 bil­lion in di­rect costs, the cur­rent level of in­vest­ment to deal with this health is­sue be­comes even more dis­pro­por­tion­ate. Fail­ure to in­vest in pub­lic health pro­grams may help to ex­plain why, since 2001, health­care costs have been grow­ing at a sig­nif­i­cantly faster rate than the econ­omy.

None­the­less, in­ac­tiv­ity is a multi-fac­to­rial is­sue, and as such, we need to recog­nise all the po­ten­tial bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing peo­ple from get­ting ac­tive in or­der to de­velop a suc­cess­ful pub­lic health cam­paign. Rea­sons for in­ac­tiv­ity can gen­er­ally be grouped into four cat­e­gories:

In­trap­er­sonal bar­ri­ers — is­sues within the in­di­vid­ual, such as be­liefs and at­ti­tudes to ac­tiv­ity, their health and phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, and mo­ti­va­tion.

In­ter­per­sonal bar­ri­ers — re­la­tion­ships sur­round­ing the in­di­vid­ual, in­clud­ing com­mit­ments to fam­ily or work, lack of sup­port from friends or fam­ily.

En­vi­ron­men­tal bar­ri­ers — is­sues in­clud­ing lack of fa­cil­i­ties such as shared path­ways, in­ad­e­quate light­ing and safety.

Or­gan­i­sa­tional bar­ri­ers — hur­dles to a spe­cific ac­tiv­ity such as re­quired travel, cost, prepa­ra­tion time, or an in­flex­i­ble sched­ule — for in­stance, a group ex­er­cise class.

The bar­ri­ers that ap­pear as the greater cul­prits will vary from per­son to per­son. How­ever, while many of th­ese bar­ri­ers can be ad­dressed, an en­vi­ron­ment that is not sup­port­ive of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is an ob­sta­cle with too few al­ter­na­tive op­tions. For in­stance, it’s a fact that most peo­ple would pre­fer to be ac­tive out­doors and in their lo­cal area, but a lack of shared walk­ing and cy­cling path­ways, ad­e­quate light­ing, safety de­signs and fea­tures de­ters most from do­ing so.

Com­mu­ni­ties with ac­tive-liv­ing, friendly de­sign con­sid­er­a­tions in­crease walk­ing, and re­duce car trips and over­all hous­ing costs. This has been ob­served in coun­tries such as Den­mark and Hol­land, where con­sid­er­able space gets al­lo­cated for bi­cy­cle paths.

One such task­force ad­dress­ing the is­sue of both phys­i­cal and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment is the NSW Pre­mier’s Coun­cil for Ac­tive Liv­ing (PCAL). It is soon to re­lease its ‘‘ Why Ac­tive Liv­ing’’ re­source (www.pcal.nsw.gov.au), out­lin­ing the key strate­gies to cre­ate a health­ier and ac­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

Libby Darli­son, chair­per­son for PCAL, says we ‘‘ have cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment that makes it very con­ve­nient for peo­ple to be in­ac­tive, and sub­se­quently de­velop un­healthy be­hav­iours. The only way to com­bat this is to make it equally con­ve­nient for peo­ple to be­come ac­tive, and more­over, eas­ier for them to in­herit a bet­ter qual­ity of life’’.

Whilst it can be ar­gued that each of us must ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for our lifestyle, there is no dis­put­ing that our en­vi­ron­ment is a ma­jor in­flu­ence on our be­hav­iours — and this is a re­spon­si­bil­ity that must be ac­knowl­edged and ad­dressed by state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments. Chris Tzar is an ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist and di­rec­tor of the Lifestyle Clinic, Fac­ulty of Medicine, Univer­sity of NSW

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.