It’s no secret Australians are facing an obesity epidemic – over 60% of Australian adults and one quarter of children and adolescents are overweight or obese… and approximately $130 billion tax dollars are being spent on obesity orientated health care every year.
But why are Australians so overweight? What are we doing so wrong?
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, our weight problems come down to three main factors:
- Food and Nutrition
- Physical Exercise
- Obesogenic Environments
Food and nutrition of course refers to the amount, quality and balance of foods we consume on a daily basis. The phrase ‘obesogenic environment’ describes places, communities and influences which encourage poor eating habits and sedentary behaviours, or simply don’t promote a healthy or balanced lifestyle.
And finally, there’s physical exercise…
What constitutes physical exercise?
According to Australian Government Department of Health, physical activity constitutes anything that makes you breathe faster and heart beat quicker. This may include anything from walking to work, vacuuming the house, pushing a stroller, swimming laps, playing tennis on the weekend or going to a boxing class.
After smoking tobacco, lack of physical activity is the highest contributor to the cancer burden in Australia. In addition to this:
- Individuals who partake in regular physical activity have a 24% lower risk of developing colon cancer.
- Risk of breast cancer in both pre and postmenopausal women is significantly decreased by performing regular physical activity.
- Exercise reduces the amount of certain hormones such as insulin and estrogen produced by the body, as well as some growth hormones, which when produced in excess (such as when you don’t exercise) have been linked to cancer development.
- Lack of exercise and obesity results in insulin resistance, which has been linked to carcinogenic growth.
- Regular exercise improves immune system function and reduces inflammation in the body, corresponding to a decrease in cancer risk.
And of course, regular exercise assists with weight loss and management – helping people prevent and/or recover from obesity and being overweight (and the mental struggles that accompany this!).
Regular physical activity doesn’t just improve your body’s function and health – it is also a key part of preventative health care. People who do not regularly exercise, are overweight or obese suffer from an increased risk of:
- Heart disease
How Much Exercise Should You Be Doing?
For Australian adults aged 18-64, the Australian Government Department of Health recommends the following:
- Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
- Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
- Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
It’s important to remember that recommendations such as those above are given as a baseline for people to work off. Many Australians do almost zero physical activity each week, and to complete 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week requires some considerable lifestyle changes!
Check out our blog 6 *Brilliant* Ways To Get More Exercise Into Your Day for easy tips and tricks to getting your body moving (no matter what your setbacks may be!).