Bronzed Aussie image endangered as Australians become less fit: experts

February 25, 2015 6:01 am 

CANBERRA, Feb. 24 — Australians are becoming less fit and more fat.

That was the worrying conclusion of several Australian health experts, backed up by the Bureau of Statistics, who are increasingly concerned that the lifestyle once synonymous with Australia, fit, healthy and outdoors, is fast becoming a myth.

Mobile phones, iPads and other screen-based entertainment is being blamed for the worrying trend away from exercise and physical health.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed falling participation rates in all the major traditional sports, including cricket, tennis and swimming.

And, the Cancer Council last week revealed that 25 percent of young Australians, aged between seven and 18, were now overweight. A generation ago, in 1985, that figure was 9.95 percent.

Professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne, Rob Moodie, told Xinhua that rising levels of this "screen-based entertainment" and lower levels of physical activity have been creating a perfect storm for obesity over the last decade.

"Screen-based entertainment is so strong, so not only your iPhone, but your iPad, computer and television are all interconnected. People are increasingly living their lives off a screen," he said.

"It's in kids' rooms, it's interrupting sleep.

"It's tough, because it all happened at a time when we've got this combination of huge increases in screen-based entertainment at the same time as we have a huge increase of the advertisement of high energy, fatty, nutrient-poor food and drinks.

"It's all coming together at once, at the wrong time."

Australians under the age of 18 are now spending more than two hours each weekday watching TV or sitting behind a computer, while 82 percent of the same age group didn't engage in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Gary Niedorfer, a spokesman for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, told Xinhua that the most recent figures indicated that Australians were becoming less physically active than ever before.

"Sixty percent of Australians aged 15 years and over participated in sport and physical recreation in 2013-14, compared with 65 percent in 2011-12," he said.

"That's a five percent drop in activity over that two-year period which is quite a significant drop."

"In 2005-06 it was 66 per cent, so it had been reasonably consistent until we had a fall in 2013-14."

The latest figures, showing less exercise and more screen time, set off alarm bells for Rob Moodie who said the imbalance would only get worse unless something was done by the government.

"Obesity is a commercial success. If you look at the amount of money going into promotion of physical inactivities, which are cars, video games and screen-based entertainment, compared to the money going into advertising physical activity, you see a very uneven playing field," he said.

"There's huge disproportion. We have a great deal to be concerned about in places like Australia simply because of the way commerce and economics are driving us.

"I think we're being forced into it. Kids at a very young age are brought up with iPhones. You've got to be able to balance it out with exercise and incidental exercise."

Moodie said while the government had made significant progress is curbing the problems Australians have had with alcohol and tobacco, there was still a long way to go before the obesity and lack of physical activity problem would be solved.

"For tobacco we've got an A+, for alcohol we have a B+, for obesity we're looking at an E or an E-," he said.

"You have to start to introduce a regulatory regime."

"We need counter-advertising to encourage us to be more active. We need better signaling on packaging of food and drink, we need rapid product reformulation and we need greater attention in our schools where physical activity needs to be a standard part of the day, not PE for one or two classes per week.

"If this goes unchanged it all contributes to an inactive Australia."

Moodie said the Australian government's decision to pull millions of dollars in health funding from the National Partnership Agreement with the states was "shocking" and indicative of the government's lack of proactivity in addressing the issue.

He, like many other health professionals, now wonders whether the "bronzed Aussie", that fit, tanned and rugged national icon, might soon be an endangered species. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/EBP

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