Tina Wu

The health “burden” of inactivity is a recurring issue in Australia and certainly not a surprising one. According to the Department of Health, adults spend an average of 39 hours per week in sedentary activity, with almost 10 hours just at work. However, a new study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that nine in 10 Australian adults could reduce their risk of heart disease by walking as little as 15 minutes more each day.

By increasing the amount of moderate activity every day, such as brisk walking, the risk of potential disease burden due to physical inactivity can decrease by 13 per cent out of the 89 per cent of the total Australian adult population who are most “at risk” – that is, those who complete only sedentary, low or moderate levels of activity on a regular basis. This can be done as simply as taking a walk while on lunch break from work, or getting off the bus a couple stops earlier. The full benefits of this increased exercise will be felt if activity is sustained for at least five days a week.

The study has found that the burden was especially prominent in illnesses such as diabetes, bowel and uterine cancer and dementia, with sedentary activity also responsible for 11 per cent of the total burden for breast cancer and coronary heart disease. This increased activity will be especially effective for adults aged 65 and over. This will not only produce positive physical results, but also provide a chance to increase one’s mental wellbeing. By joining a community walking group, older people can reap the social benefits of exercise in their daily routines.

“We know it can be difficult to start new habits, or even maintain exercise routines, but that’s where programs such as Heart Foundation Walking can be great,” says Heart Foundation National CEO Adjunct John Kelly.

“Not only will participants’ physical health benefit from more walking, but they often feel happier, make more friends and feel more connected to their community,” he says.