Physical inactivity is a risk factor that contributes to Australia’s growing and significant burden of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, yet it is a risk factor often overlooked in prevention efforts. According the National Heart Foundation of Australia CEO Mary Barry, the positive story is its therapeutic benefits to physical and mental health. It is an opportune time to remind us all that sometimes the best medicine can be as simple as spending time being physically active.

Time is central to physical activity; the amount of time we allocate to this is decreasing! Since 2001, the proportion and number of Australians doing very little or no exercise has continued to increase. This has been exacerbated by increasing time spent in sedentary activities, such as television viewing and time spent seated at work.

Our busy and highly mechanized lifestyles make avoiding prolonged sitting and finding the time to participate in structured exercise more and more challenging. In its “Blueprint for an Active Australia” the National Heart Foundation of Australia provided some example of initiatives:

  • built environment and planning reform to create spaces and paces that promote walking and cycling
  • incorporation of physical activity programs in schools, workplaces and aged- care settings
  • the delivery of affordable and accessible evidence-based physical activity programs for the management of and prevention of chronic disease
  • increased support for community sporting and active recreation clubs

Overcoming the many barriers to physical activity requires a multi-sectoral response led by governments and implemented at the community level. Let’s hope that future governments take this into consideration when funding and supporting sport and recreation programs.

We want an Australia that better reflects the healthy, fit and outdoors –loving archetype so often portrayed as representing the culture of this country.

Acknowledgement: Mary Berry, Chief Executive Officer, National Heart Foundation of Australia, “Blueprint for an Active Australia” Second Edition. Government and community actions to increase population levels of physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in Australia, 2014-17.