Two-thirds of Aussies don't exercise much

Two-thirds of Aussies don't exercise much

Sarah Wiedersehn | AAP | May 2 2017

Two-thirds of Australians are missing out on the vital physical and mental health benefits of exercise, leading to calls for a national strategy to get people moving again.

New analysis of data from Australia's Health Tracker by Area shows that 66 per cent of adults reported no or low physical activity, with people living in wealthier suburbs more likely to do regular exercise compared with those in poorer areas.

More than three-quarters of adults in the mid-west of Tasmania, western NSW and western Victoria reported no or low physical activity.

Queensland is home to some of the nation's least active residents.

Over 80 per cent of adults living in the local government area of North Burnett reported no/low physical activity.

Affluent city councils like Woollahra in Sydney (46.8%), Cottesloe in Perth (47.6%) and Stonnington in Melbourne (52.5%) have the most active residents across the country.

Associate Professor Rochelle Eime from Victoria University and Federation University says the analysis confirms those from lower socio-economic areas have poorer health.

"Our research on over 400,000 players from community sports clubs shows that children and young people from low-income areas are much less likely to play sport.

"For young women, there is a significant drop off across all income groups at age 15," Prof Eime said.

This is a concern, given 7.5 per cent of Australian children aged 2-17 are classified obese, according to the data.

Australia's Health Tracker by Area has been developed by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University in conjunction with the Public Health Information and Development Unit at Torrens University.

The digital platform includes maps that localise data on chronic diseases and their risk factors.

According to the tracker's latest update, seven per cent of all obese kids are male and 8.5 per cent are female.

In the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt alone, there are an estimated 1516 obese children or young people.

Rosemary Calder, director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration says more parks, community sports, walking tracks and active workplaces are needed.

"Increasing your activity decreases your risks of heart attack, mental illness and cancer," she said.

A national physical activity strategy that delivers programs and policies at work in suburbs that need them is a solution that will reduce the burden of a sedentary lifestyle, Dr Lyn Roberts said.

Physical inactivity costs Australia an estimated $600 million each year.

"Investing in children's programs, like walking and cycling to school, will enable 3.6 million school-aged children to get free physical activity every day," Dr Roberts said.

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