Call for National Physical Activity Action Plan

exercise: two mature men jogging

The Heart Foundation launched its ‘Move More, Sit Less’ Canberra Communique today, which outlines the foundations for a National Physical Activity Action Plan for Australia.

The plan was developed  at the recent National Physical Activity Consensus Forum in Canberra, which brought together 100 physical activity experts, key stakeholders, including political representatives.

According to Adjunct Professor, Trevor Shilton, of the National Heart Foundation, communique represents an historic opportunity to improve the nation’s health and well-being.

“With Australians less physically active than ever before, we need to hit the reset button and start thinking anew, and the ‘Move More, Sit Less’ Canberra Communique provides us the opportunity to do just that,” says Prof Shilton.

The initiative contains 9 priority areas and approaches to get Australians moving again.

“Key to achieving this must be the development of an over-arching framework, a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Action Plan, to help inform policy-making into the future.”

The Heart Foundation will present the communique to the major political parties in a bid to encourage them to commit to a national physical activity action plan.

“Early indications from the major parties are encouraging, with a clear recognition that physical activity is a major risk factor for chronic disease, Australia’s biggest health challenge,” says Prof Shilton.

The nine priority action areas identified in the ‘Move More, Sit Less’ Canberra Communique include:

  • Active clubs and sport – sport and recreation services to boost participation.
  • Active healthcare – physical activity prescription integrated into primary care.
  • Active transport, walking and cycling – transport systems that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport.
  • Active seniors – community and aged-care policies and programs to keep our seniors active, fit and well.
  • Active children – school-based programs to get Australia’s children moving.
  • Active workplaces – workplace programs to drive productivity through physical activity and reducing sitting.
  • Active cities and neighbourhoods – urban design guidance and regulation to create liveable and active cities and neighbourhoods.
  • Active public education – media campaigns to reinvigorate an active culture and motivate Australians to move more and sit less.
  • Active communities – community-based programs to engage and inspire communities to be more physically active.

Examples of specific policy initiatives underpinning the nine priority action areas include:

  • Mandating the delivery of high-quality Physical Education (PE) lessons in all Australian schools (K-12), totalling between 120-180 minutes per week.
  • Providing Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemptions for workplace packaging of sporting and health club memberships, bicycle purchases and public transport use.
  • Creating a walking and cycling infrastructure program to support local government with the development of active travel infrastructure, similar to the Government’s ‘Roads to Recovery’ program.

Professor Shilton says the benefits of a National Physical Activity Plan will be far-reaching, extending beyond improving the physical health and wellbeing of Australians.

For example, there will be economic benefits of having a more active population, especially improving for working Australians.

“Healthier, happier staff will be more productive in the workplace and less of a burden on the health system, delivering a boost to the budget as well as business bottom line.”

A National Physical Activity Action Plan will deliver:

  • Significant savings to the health budget over time, by reducing the burden of chronic disease;
  • Better health across all age groups and demographics by reducing cardiovascular disease deaths by up to 35%, cancers by 20-30%, type 2 diabetes by 40% and depression by 30%.
  • Important economic benefits such as healthier, happier workers with lower rates of absenteeism and higher rates of productivity in the workplace.
  • A reduction in the crippling traffic congestion that is choking our roads, our economy and our health.

Prof Shilton says the Heart Foundation is delighted by the strong support the communique has received from a range of key stakeholders.

“This includes endorsements from 17 organisations across government and the public health, education and community sectors.

“Their strong support of the communique and for a National Physical Activity Action Plan in particular, highlights the growing consensus in favour of taking decisive action to address Australians’ physical activity levels.

“The Heart Foundation thanks them for their generous support and looks forward to continuing to work with them in the weeks and months ahead, as we seek to build momentum behind a National Physical Activity Plan.

“Simply put, we need to get Australians of all ages and backgrounds moving more and sitting less, sooner rather than later.”


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