Leaders from some of Australia’s major health associations are converging on Canberra next week in an AUSactive-led initiative.

Leaders from some of Australia’s major health associations are converging on Canberra next week in an AUSactive-led initiative to raise the issues associated with prolonged pandemic-induced inactivity and call for support and funding to get more Australians active. 

The impact of continued COVID discussions, cost of living pressures and climate change on the nation’s wellbeing and mental health has seen an increase in some alarming statistics, highlighted by inactivity being the fourth largest killer globally according to the World Health Organisation. 

AUSactive CEO Barrie Elvish said next week was the first gathering of major health organisations to address the impact of inactivity and to seek input from the government to formulate a solution.  

The outcome of this first gathering will be the development of a Physical and Preventative Health Alliance Strategy that provides a roadmap forward towards better health, including budget proposals for federal funding. 

Mr Elvish said:

“The purpose of next week’s meetings is to meet with government Ministers, MPs and other stakeholders to get their input and support for a physical and preventative health strategy that addresses the long-term health and wellbeing of all Australians.”  

“This is the first gathering of its kind, and it highlights the far-reaching impacts of our current state of inactivity. Accelerated by the pandemic, working from home, isolation and all the associated challenges we’ve faced in the past two years, it’s never been more important to seek top level input and support to address the alarming issue of inactivity.” 

Mr Elvish said leaders and representatives from the Heart Foundation, Liver Foundation, Healthy Life, Musculoskeletal Australia and Arthritis Australia will consult with the government about the vital link between physical activity and a person’s overall health and wellbeing. 

Mr Elvish said:

“Extensive research shows regular exercise is associated with a lower likelihood of developing depression or anxiety. Mounting evidence is also linking physical activity with positive mental health, and a sense of purpose in life. This is in addition to the known benefits to our physical and cardiovascular health.” 

“Now is the time to act. With the support of some of Australia’s major health organisations, we want to push the inactivity issue to the top of the government’s agenda, so that vital budget funding can be allocated to address the issue and prevent further health consequences.  

“The “win win” in investing now is it will save the government billions of dollars in future and ongoing health related expenditure, an important consideration in times of financial constraints.”  

“Ultimately, we want to see a national public health campaign encouraging physical activity.  Getting active with others and family, especially outdoors, provides important social connections, improves mental wellbeing and assists reducing physical ailments and associated health costs.” 

“The strategy will pave the way forward, including further research, pilot projects and to do this we need the government’s support. They have long touted the message of looking after the health of all Australians during the pandemic, but now it is time to focus on the long-term health and wellbeing of our communities.” 

Editor notes: 

  • Physical inactivity is the 4th largest killer globally according to the W.H.O 
  • More than 55% of Australian adults do not meet recommended physical activity guidelines 
  • 2 in 3 (70%) Aussie children aged 2-17 years do not meet recommended physical activity guidelines 
  • Physical inactivity contributes 10-20% of the individual disease burden from diabetes, bowel cancer, uterine cancer, dementia, breast cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. 
  • Physical inactivity is responsible for 6%+ of the cancer burden in Australia, second only to smoking. 
  • Long periods of sedentary behaviour increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity, among other conditions.
A recent AUSactive Report – A Tale of Three Pandemics: Research and Economic Modelling into Physical Inactivity and COVID-19’ – found:
  • One-third (33%) of Australians in COVID lockdown affected areas report the lockdowns have had a negative impact on their mental health, 12% saying that it has been a ‘very negative’ impact. 
  • 30% of Australians identified as having experienced high psychological distress in the preceding month, with a further 10% experiencing moderate distress. 
  • Younger Australians have been hit particularly hard, with 45% of those aged 17-24 experiencing high psychological distress.