With the nation now relatively free of community Coronavirus transmission, Fitness Australia, is urging the Federal Government to refocus its attention on the long-term health of the nation.

With the nation now relatively free of community Coronavirus transmission, Fitness Australia, is urging the Federal Government to refocus its attention on the long-term health of the nation and improve our physical activity rates by resuming the development of the National Physical Activity Strategy and its role in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030.

Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish said the government took the first step towards its commitment to reducing physical inactivity when it signed up to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030 (GAPPA), in 2018.

Elvish advised:

“Reducing physical inactivity is a global issue, we know a range of lifestyle-related diseases and conditions are a result of not exercising or maintaining appropriate levels of physical activity. In 2018, the WHO took the lead to develop a Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030 to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by 2025 and by 15% by 2030; encouragingly Australia signed on.

“With only 34.1% of Australians meeting the physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines, the Federal Government signed up to GAPPA and made a commitment towards developing a national framework to combat inactivity across the country.

“Initially the framework was progressed through a short-lived committee of the State Sport and Recreation Ministers tasked with the development of a National Physical Activity Strategy; unfortunately, this group was disbanded last month.”

Acknowledging the reported positive impacts of COVID-19 on levels of physical activity as a promising trend that the Federal Government should pay close attention to when developing the National Physical Activity Strategy, Elvish stated “the Australian community took heed of the Prime Minister’s and CHO’s frequent calls to exercise regularly during COVID-19 lockdowns. We now need to focus on keeping the momentum going to create a long-term positive change out of what has been a challenging period for everyone.”

Fitness Australia said industry data including recent AusPlay Early Impact of COVID-19 on Sport and Physical Activity Participation shows more government action is needed to keep Australians more physically active long term:

Physical activity
• Only 34.1% of Australians meet physical activity guidelines but COVID-19 saw almost three-quarter of adults get active during the lockdown
• Non-sport related activities such as walking (43.3%), fitness/gym (36.7%) and running (16.4%) were most popular in the past 12 months
• COVID-19 prompted the need for more frequent participation in physical activity, with people more active on purpose from April 2020, with the highest spike in under-35s
• The top motivators for more frequent participation were physical health/fitness (84.6%), mental health (27.2%) and social reasons (34.2%).

Wellbeing and Mental Health
• Wellbeing scores during COVID-19 were more positive in the ‘sports lovers’ audience segment, and least positive in those ‘not interested’ in sport, showing the benefit physical activity has on a person’s overall wellbeing and mental health
• People who were finding it easier to keep fit and active during COVID-19 reported feeling more optimistic and connected, with greater wellbeing.

Elvish noted:

“Recent trends show people are more inclined to exercise than ever before, and while this might be largely due to having more time during COVID-19, future initiatives to keep these people engaged and motivated to continue a regular exercise routine are vital for our long-term health and wellbeing.

“The rising trend in physical activity rather than traditional sport-related activities, something that has been evident since 2010, shows there is scope to extend these initiatives outside of organised sport and provide greater opportunities for people to access government support, or assistance to attend yoga, work with a personal trainer outdoors, take up a gym membership or join a dance studio to name just a few.

“Getting more people more active, more often is the focus of Fitness Australia’s consumer advocacy. We know physical activity comes in a variety of forms and we are keen to work with the Federal Government and Department of Health to ensure a broad range of options are considered in a  National Physical Activity Strategy.”

Going on to highlight the physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits of regular exercise and activity, particularly during uncertain times such as COVID-19, highlighted the importance of these services being classified as essential.

Elvish added:

“Access to physical activity options such as a gym, boutique studio, personal training and other forms of health and fitness services is essential. Fitness Australia has been working extensively with federal, state and territory governments in recent months to ensure these facilities and services can remain operational even in a pandemic, with appropriate health and safety protocols in place – just like other allied health services that people rely on for their continued wellbeing.

“2021 presents new opportunities for the way we look at and focus on, our health. We need to work together and develop bipartisan support for a national strategy that promotes continued and regular physical activity to ensure the future health and wellbeing of Australians remains the envy of the world. The benefits derived for both the Australian community, Health services and taxpayer are indisputable.”