Calls For A National Physical Activity Plan Rise

It may seem hard to believe for some people but there really was a time when this nation was physically active. And in the not-too-distant past either. We were all proud to be part of this unique Aussie way of life which included everything from swimming & surfing to athletic races & street cricket at the drop of a cap.

That was in the years consigned to history as BC. ‘Before computers’, work was largely physical and food was something you fuelled your body with. Not so now. The take-up of desk jobs with mouse in one hand and convenience foods in the other has spread like sludge across the wide brown land.

Industry Calls for ‘National Physical Activity Plan’

So much so that there are now serious calls for the government to step in and take action to urge its citizens to Move More and Sit Less via a National Physical Activity Action Plan.

Why? Because the sad, sorry fact is that we are now in the grip of a chronic disease epidemic. Fifty-seven percent of Australian adults do not meet physical activity guidelines. Neither do eight out of ten children. One in three Aussie workers spend at least three-quarters of their time sitting. And physical inactivity causes an estimated 14,000 deaths each year.

These cold, sobering facts are not exclusive to Australia alone. It’s a global problem that many countries are addressing at policy level but not us, as yet. According to the Heart Foundation, Australia ranks 94th out of 131 countries participating in a National Physical Activity Action Plan. Of those 131 participating countries, 37 have specific national plans for the promotion of physical activity and another 65 include physical activity as part of plans for the prevention of non-communicable diseases.

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Australia’s Involvement in Global Physical Activity Movement

Australia has not committed to the global action plan as yet but the wheels are in motion. In September 2015, 100 leading policy experts and key stakeholders met at Parliament House, Canberra, to determine the elements needed to underpin a National Physical Activity Action Plan. A further 200 professionals participated online.

This ‘Canberra Communique’ detailed nine action areas and a cohesive set of approaches and policies that government and major political parties can easily and effectively adopt and implement in a measurable way. These simple policy initiatives will:

  • enable Australians to walk and cycle to school, work or for recreation
  • support local government to deliver better places and infrastructure for physical activity
  • support children to engage in physical education, sport and recreation, and escape the shackles of their screens and computers
  • provide for the needs of rural communities, older Australians, people who are disadvantaged and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Move More, Sit Less proposal to government from the Heart Foundation and its partners encompasses a united physical front with specific recommendations for active children, seniors, workplaces, transport, walking and cycling, clubs and sport, cities, communities and neighbourhoods, healthcare and, of course, ample public education.

If we can’t tackle this obesity/inactivity problem on an individual basis – and it seems we can’t – joining the global movement in adopting a National Physical Activity Action Plan makes sense. All we need is a renewed political vision and commitment for a healthier, more productive and active Australia in the 21st century. By all accounts, this won’t be far away but in the meantime, we can all start the process within our own family circles – by simply making a concerted effort to move more and sit less.

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