The majority of adult Australians don't do regular exercise (where regular means at least twice a week). I'm asking why, and suggesting a few remedies. A sample:
This is partly an issue of class. As much as it pains devotees of Australia's ''classless society'' to recognise this, fitness and health are divided along socio-economic lines. As the ABS recognises, higher income and education levels go hand-in-hand with higher participation in sports and physical recreation. Income helps us pay for club or gym memberships, and buy costly equipment. Education can make it easier to find health information and to weigh up the options. And the richer suburbs have better facilities: places to run, play and work out. It's more difficult to take long walks if your neighbourhood's filthy or dangerous, or every shopping trip requires driving.
As with many markers of class, fitness levels are often inherited. A quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese, and children in low socio-economic areas are more likely to be so.
But it is not all class. Australian kids, rich and poor, still spend an average of two hours in front of the idiot box a day - far more than on a bike or in a pair of running shoes. Many adults are similarly preoccupied with television, computers and sedentary leisure.
Overwork also contributes to this. According to figures released by The Australia Institute, almost half of respondents had missed exercise because of employment. More than a third admitted poor eating habits for the same reason. Work can literally make us sick.
So the rugged, rippled Australian is an endangered species. And this is not simply an individual predicament. Geography, education, income, ethnicity, gender - these compete and collude to encourage inactivity and ill health. There is no simple solution.(Photo: United States Navy)