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NZ a nation of sports watchers on the couch

Get off the couch Kiwi men

Christchurch – New Zealand guys need to get out and start exercising more or the severe preventable death rate will continue to soar, a leading national exercise expert says.

Richard Beddie, chief executive of Exercise New Zealand, says while the Kiwis just love sport, they are, on the whole, a nation of couch-sports watchers, rather than from a country of fit people.

Statistics show that every three hours one New Zealand male dies of a preventable illness and tomorrow is the start of Men’s Health Week. Beddie today pleaded for Kiwi men to exercise and stay more active.

“The numerous benefits of regular physical activity are unequivocal, with not only well established physical health benefits. We see significant preventative health benefits including everything from mental health and Alzheimers through to osteoporosis and hearth disease.

“But just like the smoking issues of 20 years ago, the information about the need for activity just isn’t enough to change behaviour. Being a nation of just sports watchers is not acceptable. It’s great to watch great games like last night’s Lions v Crusaders rugby clash but now Kiwi guys need to get active to make up for long periods on the couch.

“What’s clear is that getting information to people about what they need to do to stay healthy is easy. Move more (some of which with intensity), eat less (but more real food), don’t smoke and drink any alcohol in moderation.

“However, the challenge isn’t getting information to people, it’s about helping people change behaviour and changing existing people’s regular habits is actually hard. Ask any parent teaching their kids about things as simple as bedtime or brushing their teeth.

“In other words, too much time, and money is spent on telling people WHAT to do, rather than helping them actually do it.

“I appeal to government departments and government funded agencies to move away from pushing information campaigns and start working with those that have expertise in helping people to change their behaviour. One of the best industries at that is the exercise industry.

“Exercise professionals such as personal trainers deal with supporting clients to change behaviour on a daily basis, but the government doesn’t realise they are a hugely under-utilised group of professionals.

“This is such a common theme around western countries and the combined cost of inactivity and preventable diseases consistently in the top five health costs for governments. As a country with a comprehensive public health system, most of the cost of this is born by the tax payer, meaning other services are not delivered due to insufficient funds.,” Beddie says.

ExerciseNZ and its partner NZ Register of Exercise Professionals often raise issues of the need to exercise on the international stage. Beddie spoke at a global meeting in Los Angeles this year where over 70 countries were represented and he says the health-exercise link was a common theme.

For further information contact Make Lemonade NZ editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

Photo: Richard Beddie

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