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ESSA supports walking campaign, but what more can the government be doing?

The Heart Foundation, with support from the Australian Government, have recently launched the Prime Minister’s “One million steps” campaign to encourage thousands of Australians to get moving for better health.

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) supports the initiative and recommends that the government continues to be significantly involved in initiatives that aim to promote physical activity.

“When it comes to encouraging Australians to be physically active, it’s vital that we see change and support starting from the very top from our Prime Minister and Australian Government,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

“This campaign provides participants with a fun and obtainable step count goal to work towards which will benefit both their physical and mental health and well-being along the way.”

Walking – the oldest form of exercise and an easy and effective way to improve overall health – offers our body a wide range of health benefits from improved heart health, reduced risk of falls, improved postural control, neck and lower back pain prevention, and brain function.

“According to the 2017 AIHW report, if all Australians did an extra 15 minutes of brisk walking at least five days a week, this would reduce disease burden due to physical inactivity by approximately 13%,” adds Ms Hobson-Powell.

With statistics telling us that 60% of Australian adults participate in less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day, it’s important that the Australian Government supports the notion of physical activity as a means for preventative health.

Prime Minister Turnbull stated that he, “Encourage[s] all Australians to join us and start with a few steps. Those few can quickly turn into one million, and a much healthier, more active future for us all.”

But what more can the Australian Government be doing to encourage physical activity?

“This is a good step in the right direction. However, we are asking the Australian Government to use the current national health reforms (i.e. Medicare Benefits Schedule, private health insurance, mental health, aged care) as an opportunity to further integrate and cement evidence-based physical activity and exercise services in healthcare,” explains Alex Lawrence, ESSA Policy and Advocacy Officer.

ESSA is involved in and supports a wide range of broader public health prevention and health promotion campaigns and collaborations.

In 2015, ESSA participated in a national forum facilitated by the Heart Foundation with policy experts and key stakeholders to identify the main elements that would make up a National Physical Activity Action Plan.

The result of this forum and subsequent online consultation was the development of the‘Move More, Sit Less’ Canberra Communique. This document outlines a set of nine action areas and a co-ordinated set of policies that governments and political parties can easily take on board and allocate funding towards getting Australians moving more and sitting less.

ESSA joins over 20 other organisations across government and the public health, education and community sectors as a proud signatory to this document and calls for a Federal Government National Physical Activity Action Plan.

ESSA’s Active Nation campaign is calling on the Federal Government, as well as state and local governments, to commit to building a nation where everyone is supported to be active.

“Too often the blame for inactivity is levelled at the individual. This is unfair. ESSA have launched the Active Nation campaign to get physical activity and exercise higher up on the government’s agenda and promote the benefits of the general public working with accredited exercise physiologists and exercise scientists,” adds Alex.

Click here to join the Prime Minister’s One million steps. Reach one million steps, or log 100 walks, and you’ll go into the draw to win a major prize, with other prizes along the way.

To get in contact with your local accredited exercise professional, click here.