It's time to walk the fitness walk, not just talk the fitness talk

If there was a direct correlation between the number of online health and wellbeing publications, fitness related Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts and the hundreds of magazines devoted to exercise and weight loss we would be the healthiest generation in history.

Unfortunately the reverse seems to be the case.

Despite the rise and rise of the #fitspro social media phenomenon and the explosion in sales of Fitbits and other smart devices obesity continues to soar while physical activity plummets.

The fact Australians are now fatter and less fit than they have ever been has set the stage for a national crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of people are on course for a universe of pain when, as they get older, they will be afflicted with preventable cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and a wide range of cancers.

The cumulative effect of these individual ailments, through higher health costs and lost productivity in the economy, will be to put a massive strain on future national budgets.

How much tax will Australians have to pay 10, 20 and 30 years from now to provide the same level of public health care as today?

We are already seeing an increase in the number of Australians whose quality of life has been reduced and whose lives have been cut short because they did not do more to be the best versions of themselves they could be when they were younger.

It's a lot easier to get your weight and fitness under control before the crisis explodes upon you.

These are just some of the messages we should be taking away from this week's The Lancet report on "Worldwide Trends in Insufficient Physical Activity".

More than 25 per cent of the world population, about 1.4 billion people, did not do enough exercise in 2016. The World Health Organisation defines "enough" as at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity a week.

While Australia was not as bad as Kuwait, with 67 per cent, or American Samoa, with 53 per cent, of their populations not exercising enough, our perception of ourselves as a nation of sun-kissed and athletic amazons and Adonises is wide of the mark.

Almost a third of us are couch potatoes by the WHO definition and, as a country, we ranked 97th out of the 168 surveyed.

The success of the "Life Be In It" program, complete with Norm, in the 1980s and the fact thousands of Australians are now on the move thanks to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Steptember suggests what people need is a bit of encouragement and motivation.

This is where Government can play a role by taking creative approaches to encouraging physical activity.

These could be along the lines of subsidising sports club memberships, investing in ovals, community gymnasiums and walking and cycling paths and making exercise opportunities integral to town planning.

It is far more efficient to invest in keeping people healthy than to try to reverse the effects of preventable health conditions once they have reached a critical stage.

And, best of all, fitter and healthier people generally live longer, happier and more productive lives.

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