Australian Bureau of Statistics

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4835.0.55.001 - Physical Activity in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/09/2011   
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HEALTH STATUS


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people who do not achieve sufficient amounts of physical activity have a higher risk of developing a number of health conditions. An estimated 30% of the global ischaemic heart disease burden, 27% of diabetes and 21% to 25% of breast and colon cancer burden is attributable to physical inactivity [19]. On the other hand, being physically active can have a positive effect on a person's perception of their own health and improve their emotional wellbeing.


LONG-TERM HEALTH CONDITIONS

Heart, stroke and vascular disease

Heart, stroke and vascular diseases are a subset of diseases affecting the circulatory system. Physical inactivity is a leading risk factor for these diseases, which combined with others such as excess weight, smoking and poor nutrition, can increase the risk. Ischaemic heart diseases and strokes were ranked as the two leading causes of death in Australia in 2009 [23].

Men who were sedentary or exercised at low levels were more likely to have heart, stroke or vascular disease than those who had exercised at moderate or high levels (8% compared with 6%). Women who were sedentary or exercised at low levels were around twice as likely as those who exercised at moderate or high levels to have heart, stroke or vascular disease (7% compared with 3%).

Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Causes of hypertension include insufficient physical activity, obesity, a diet high in salt and excessive alcohol consumption.

A higher proportion of men who were sedentary or exercised at low levels had hypertension, compared with those who exercised at moderate or high levels (13% compared with 9%). Similarly, more women who were sedentary or exercised at low levels had hypertension (14%) than those who exercised at moderate or high levels (9%) (Graph 5.1).

5.1 Proportion of people with hypertension, by Level of exercise(a)

Graph-5.1 Proportion of people with hypertension, by level of exercise

(a) Level of exercise undertaken for fitness, recreation or sport in the week prior to interview.

Source: National Health Survey, 2007-08


High blood cholesterol

High blood cholesterol is another major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke, as it creates blockages in blood vessels that supply the heart and other areas of the body. It is generally caused by high consumption of saturated fats, however, regular physical activity combined with a healthy diet can help keep blood cholesterol at a healthy level.

There was no significant difference in the prevalence of high blood cholesterol between men who were sedentary or exercised at low levels and men who exercised at moderate or high levels. Women who were sedentary or exercised at low levels, however, were more likely to have high blood cholesterol (8%) than those who exercised at moderate or high levels (5%).

Type 2 diabetes

The most common form of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, is characterised by insufficient production and use of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Having Type 2 diabetes increases a person's risk of coronary heart disease and stroke among other conditions. While it can often be genetic, lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, poor diet and excess weight can increase the risk of developing the condition.

Men who were sedentary or exercised at low levels were 1.5 times more likely to have Type 2 diabetes than those who exercised at moderate or high levels (6% compared with 4%). Correspondingly, women who were sedentary or exercised at low levels were also more likely to have Type 2 diabetes than those who exercised at moderate or high levels (4% compared with 2%).

Arthritis

Arthritis is a term used to describe several conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints. Excess weight and physical inactivity are two of the major risk factors for many types of arthritis, the most common of which is osteoarthritis.

More men who were sedentary or exercised at low levels had some form of arthritis (18%) than those who exercised at moderate or high levels (14%). This was also the case for women, with 24% of those who were sedentary or exercised at low levels having some type of arthritis, compared with 19% of women who exercised at moderate or high levels (Graph 5.2).

5.2 Proportion of people with arthritis, by Level of exercise(a)
Graph-5.2 Proportion of people with arthritis, by level of exercise
(a) Level of exercise undertaken for fitness, recreation or sport in the week prior to interview.

Source: National Health Survey, 2007-08


Cancer

Physical inactivity is a known risk factor for bowel and breast cancer, and may also be linked with prostate, uterine and lung cancer. Being physically inactive is also associated with excess weight, which increases the risk of developing cancer [24].

Data from the 2007-08 NHS shows that there was no significant difference in the rates of cancer between men who were sedentary or exercised at low levels and those who exercised at moderate or high levels. However, there was a significant difference for women, with 2% of those who were sedentary or exercised at low levels having cancer, compared with 1% of those who exercised at moderate or high levels.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition in which airways of the lungs become inflamed, causing wheezing, breathlessness, tightness in the chest and coughing. This inflammation can be brought about by various triggers such as allergy, viral respiratory infections, air pollutants and exercise, and is usually treated with medication contained in an inhaler. Regular physical activity can help with the management of asthma.

In 2007-08, there was no significant difference in the prevalence of asthma between those who were sedentary of exercised at low levels and people who exercised at moderate or high levels.

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