Exercise is less of a habit, more of a ‘once in a blue moon’ event for a worrying number of Kiwis.
A survey of 2000 New Zealanders by Southern Cross Health Society has found that 17% exercise less than once per week. A further 10% said they never exercise.
The survey revealed a huge divide in the nation’s exercise habits. While a large number of people were getting little or no exercise at all, another 17% were exercising at least once a day, while a further 7% said they exercised more than once a day.
People from Dunedin were the nation’s most frequent exercisers, with 47% saying they exercised at least four times or more every week, with Wellingtonians nipping closely at their heels. Aucklanders were the least frequent exercisers, with 45% exercising once a week or less.
Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive Peter Tynan said though there were positives, the high number of inactive people was a huge worry for the nation.
“Regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, obesity and diabetes. Preventative action through exercise can help to save lives and tax dollars.”
The under 30s and those aged 50 plus were the most likely age groups to exercise. When comparing household composition, people with children were the least likely to regularly exercise.
Ministry of Health guidelines recommend adults should be doing at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity at least five days a week.
Tynan said commonly cited barriers such as time, convenience and expense of exercise could be worked around if the desire was there.
“There’s a misconception that exercise equals an hour at the gym. While that’s great if you can, just getting up at lunchtime and going for a brisk walk or running around at the park with the kids will have you nearing the recommended activity target. Your activity doesn’t need to be done in blocks, it can be three 10 minute bursts of activity instead of 30 minutes.”
The survey found that of those that did regular exercise, 46% had experienced weight loss as a result.
The biggest motivator cited to exercise was to improve health, with 55% of people saying this was a key reason they exercised. 40% were also in it to lose weight, while 34% said they enjoyed it. Only 20% of people said that improving their appearance was a motivator for exercising.
Said Tynan, “In addition to physical benefits, regular exercise is also great for our mental wellbeing and boosting energy levels.”
Southern Cross Health Society is New Zealand’s largest health insurer and also offers other health-related initiatives, such as corporate wellness programmes and Health Management Accounts.