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New Government report tackles physical inactivity barriers in Australia

The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Physical activity across the life stages, was released today, outlining the physical activity and sedentary participation rate of Australians across different populations and life stages.

With the report also considering the barriers to physical activity, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is encouraging Australians to not only participate in more physical activity, but to seek advice from an accredited exercise professional to help break down any known barriers.

“While opportunities exist to be physically active every day, our social and environmental settings in which we live, work and play can affect our participation levels and create barriers,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

“The good news is that an accredited exercise professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or Accredited Exercise Scientist, can help with that by prescribing exercise suitable for the specific individual and their health.”

Participating in regular physical activity and limiting the amount of time being sedentary can have significant health benefits as it reduces the risk of chronic conditions and other disease risk factors such as overweight and obesity, and also improves social and emotional health and well-being.

According to the data, 30% of children aged 2–17 and 44% of adults aged 18 and over met the Australian physical activity guideline. However, the report highlighted a range of barriers for those who remain physically inactive including sedentary screen-based activity time and health issues.

An ongoing barrier for children meeting physical activity guidelines is screen-based activity, with the report highlighting that only 1 in 3 (35%) children aged 5–12 and 1 in 5 (20%) children aged 13–17 met the recommended sedentary screen-based behaviour guideline.

“Although a high percentage of children are exceeding the recommended amount of screen-based activity time, adolescent boys aged 13–17 were the least likely to meet these guidelines,” adds Ms Hobson-Powell.

“This is despite participation in physical activity being similar between adolescent boys and girls as 85% of 13–17 year old boys did not meet this guideline, compared with 74% of adolescent girls.”

As Australia ages, poor health or injury was more frequently cited by the AIHW as the main barrier for physical activity – increasing from almost one-fifth (18%) of those aged 35–44 to almost half (48%) of adults aged 65 and over.

“It’s particularly common for poor health and injuries to affect a person’s physical activity levels, as they can feel unsure on how to exercise safely for their condition.”

“An Accredited Exercise Physiologist specialises in clinical exercise prescription for the prevention and management of chronic conditions and injuries. This includes diabetes, poor heart health, musculoskeletal injuries, cancers, mental illness, and a range of other conditions.”

By seeking guidance from an accredited exercise professional who is suitably qualified to work with you to increase your physical activity levels and exercise right for any chronic conditions, you’re really giving yourself the best chance to remove those physical activity barriers and improve your overall health.

“Engaging in exercise and physical activity is vital for our health and well-being and doesn’t need to be complicated. Regardless of age, sex, geographic location, it can be simple and easy to do.”

Key statistics from the Physical activity across the life stages report include:

  • 30% of children aged 2–17 and 44% of adults aged 18 and over met the physical activity guideline.
  • More Indigenous children aged 5–17 met the physical activity guideline than non-Indigenous children aged 5–17.
  • 6 in 10 (60%) Australians aged 18–64 in the highest socioeconomic group met the physical activity guideline, compared to only 37% in the lowest socioeconomic group.
  • 48% of adults aged 18–64 met the physical activity guideline and 24% met the strength-based activity guideline.
  • 1 in 4 (25%) adults aged 65 and over did 30 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days.

For more information on increasing your physical activity levels, contact your local accredited exercise professional by visiting the ESSA website.