The "Find Thirty" program has been highly successful, if only as a way for Australians to know the amount of physical activity needed on a daily basis to stay healthy.
That was on the understanding that if energy input (i.e. the amount of food) was controlled and that the amount of time spent sitting was less than 4.5 hours a day, thirty minutes of exercise would be sufficient to prevent weight gain.
The trouble is that many of us sit for far longer than 4.5 hours each day, plus there is so much availability of energy dense food that many people consume far more kilojoules than is required. Hence the suggested level of activity required has now been increased to 45 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.
Now that is the recommendation for the general population who are currently of normal weight, in order to prevent the transition to becoming overweight or obese.
For those attempting to prevent weight gain following weight loss this needs to be increased to at least 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.
Statistics from 2007 reveal that currently in Australia:
2% of adults are underweight
37% are of normal weight
37% are overweight and
25% are obese
In other words, those in the normal weight range are now in the minority.
68% of men are more likely to be either overweight or obese compared to 55% of women and particularly in the older age group of 65 - 74 years where 74% of men are overweight or obese.
For children the statistics show:
2-5% are underweight
21-25% of children are overweight or obese.
Again levels of obesity were higher for boys (9%) compared to girls (6%)
The prevalence of overweight and obesity is similar 26% for boys and 24% for girls but one piece of good news is that the rate of increase appears to be slowing.
However it is estimated that if current trends continue, that by 2025, 83% of men and 75% of women aged 20 years or more will be either overweight or obese.
This of course would put enormous pressure on the level of disease burden carried by society, mostly in the form of higher levels of Type Two diabetes which of course has a number of other health risks including an increased risk of dementia.
Prevention has to be better then treating the outcome of excess weight and obesity.
Some of the main dietary messages relating to health are that following a healthier diet such as the Mediterranean diet is of particular benefit to staying in the healthy weight range.
A healthy weight is a body weight associated with normal growth and development in children and a reduced risk of short term and long-term morbidity and mortality among people of all ages
For children the amount of activity recommended varies with age:
Toddlers and pre-schoolers need a minimum of three hours physical activity across each day.
Children aged 5-12 should aim to include a minimum of sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day
12-18 year olds are recommended to undertake a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day of a moderate to vigorous level
For adults the recommendations include:
# Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience
# Be active every day in as many ways as possible
# Put together at least 30 minutes of exercise of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferable all days.
# If possible, enjoy some regular vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness.
Moderate intensity exercise will get your heart rate up and be sufficient to make you puff. This could include brisk walking, where you can talk comfortable (but not sing!) It could be mowing the lawn, digging in the garden, medium paced swimming or cycling
The thirty minutes can also be broken down into several short 5, 10 or 15-minute sessions.
This will help to maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, but may not be enough to prevent weight gain in most people.
For older adults there are 5 main recommendations:
# Do some form of physical activity, no matter what your age, weight, health problems or ability
# Be physically active in as many ways as possible, doing a broad range of activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility
# Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most, preferably all days
# If you have stopped physical activity, or are starting a new form of activity, start at a level that is easily manageable and gradually build up the recommended amount, type, and frequency of activity
# Older people who have enjoyed a lifetime of physical activity should carry on in a manner suited to their capability into later life, provided recommended safety procedures and guidelines are adhered to.
The statistics are truely shocking and even if they turn out not be quite as bad as predicted there is no time or place for complacency.
The solution is simple, somehow we MUST incorporate regular exercise on a daily basis sufficient to maintain physical and mental wellbeing.
Our future, especially for our kids depends on it.
What are you doing for your daily exercise routine and is it enough?
Australian Dietary Guidelines www.eatforhealth.gov.au
National Health and Medical Research Council (2013)
Australian Dietary Guidelines Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council