4835.0.55.001 - Physical Activity in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/09/2011
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Being physically inactive, like other lifestyle behaviours, can increase the risk of a number of health conditions but, unlike factors such as a person's age or sex, individuals can take action to modify these behaviours. For example, people may decide to cycle or walk to work instead of driving their car to increase their fitness levels.
In 2007-08, information was collected about people's weight, their usual alcohol, fruit and vegetable consumption and whether or not they smoked. In this article, measured height and weight data was used to calculate overweight and obesity rates. Data on other lifestyle behaviours was self-reported and may be affected by perceptions of what is socially desirable; for example, amount of alcohol consumed may be understated.
One of the main causes of overweight and obesity is an imbalance between energy consumed and energy expended through physical activity. The total amount of energy expended depends on the type of physical activity and the individual performing it .
In 2007-08, adults who did not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines were more likely to be overweight or obese than those who did meet them (63% compared with 59%). Of those people who did not meet the recommended guidelines, men were more likely than women to be overweight or obese (69% and 57% respectively) (Graph 4.1).
More than half (58%) of people who met the recommended physical activity guidelines were overweight or obese. While people may be doing regular exercise, they may also be consuming more energy than they are using through physical activity.
4.1 Proportion of people overweight or obese(a)(b), by Whether met
physical activity guidelines(c)(d)
(a) Measured Body Mass Index.
(b) Excludes persons for whom measured height or weight was not available.
(c) The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults.
(d) Based on exercise undertaken for fitness, recreation or sport in the last week.
Source: National Health Survey, 2007-08
The amount of time people spend sitting at leisure has been linked to health problems such as obesity and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease . Adults who spent 2 hours or less per day sitting at leisure were less likely to be overweight or obese (55%) than those who sat for 3-4 hours (62%), 5-8 hours (65%) and more than 8 hours (60%) on a typical day.
The World Health Organisation estimates that around 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11% of ischaemic heart disease deaths and 9% of stroke deaths are attributable to insufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables . A healthy diet can boost the immune system and prevent a range of chronic conditions. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that adults consume at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day .
People who met the recommended physical activity guidelines were more likely to consume the recommended daily amounts of fruit and vegetables than those who did not meet them (8% compared with 5%). However, the overall proportion of Australian adults who met the recommended daily amounts of fruit and vegetables was relatively low.
Smoking affects the normal functioning of the lungs, which may have an effect on an individual's capacity to participate in physical activity. Research suggests that people who smoke are more likely to engage in other health risk behaviours than those who do not .
In 2007-08, current smokers were less likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines (26%) than ex-smokers (34%) or people who had never smoked (32%). Similarly, adults who did not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines were more likely to be current smokers than those who met the guidelines (23% compared with 17%) (Graph 4.2).
Adults who met the recommended physical activity guidelines were more likely to be ex-smokers than those who did not meet the guidelines (32% compared with 29%), supporting the idea that people who actively make changes to one health behaviour may make changes to others, for example giving up smoking and improving fitness by exercising more.
4.2 Proportion of people who met physical activity guidelines(a)(b), by
(a) The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults.
(b) Based on exercise undertaken for fitness, recreation or sport in the last week.
Source: National Health Survey, 2007-08
In 2007-08, people were asked to report on the amount of alcohol they consumed in the week prior to being interviewed. This was used to calculate levels of long-term risk from alcohol consumption, based on the 2001 NHMRC guidelines for reducing long-term health risks from alcohol consumption (no more than four standard drinks a day for men and two standard drinks a day for women) .
Adults who exercised at moderate to high levels were slightly more likely than those who were sedentary or exercised at low levels to consume alcohol at risky or high risk levels (15% compared with 13%).
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