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A nation of 'car potatoes'

23/01/2018

Australians are unhealthily car-bound “car potato” commuters, with almost three out of four adults usually travelling to work or study by car. Worse, parents are passing on their car dependence to their kids, with almost two in three Australian children (64%) being driven to school most days.

The new figures are from a survey of more than 2,000 Australians aged 25-49, undertaken by the LiveLighter public health education campaign.

Among the key findings were:

  • Almost three out of four (72%) Australians often travel to and from work or study by car. More than one in three use public transport (37%). Only one in four (27%) walk. Some commuters use more than one method of transport.
  • Two thirds (64%) of kids mostly travel to and from school by car.
  • More than half the parents surveyed (52%) believed it was important for children to be able to walk to school without adult supervision. But fewer than one in three (31%) thought it was actually safe for kids to do this.
  • One in four parents surveyed cited lack of safe routes (24%) and personal safety (24%) as reasons their children do not walk or ride a bike to school.
  • More than one in three 25-49 year olds (35%) do not use public transport at all. One in three (33%) Australians use public transport at least several times a week.
  • Of those who never use public transport, 35% cited inconvenience and 22% cited lack of accessibility.

LiveLighter Campaign Manager Alison McAleese said the figures show Australians are increasingly dependent on their cars when it came to getting themselves to work and study, or their kids to school.

“We need to fall out of love with our cars and start enjoying the outdoors,” she said.

“We already know from our research that only one in four adults actually does enough exercise. And we also know that one in seven Australians does no exercise at all.”

“Before school starts up next week, we encourage parents to think about some ways they can incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives.”

“When thinking about instilling healthy attitudes, parents should ask themselves, ‘What are the things preventing me from getting active with my kids?’” she said.

 “If driving is unavoidable, even parking ten or fifteen minutes away and walking the rest of the way together is a good compromise,” Ms McAleese said.

All school-age kids need one hour of moderate to vigorous physical exercise every day, according to Ms McAleese, and adults should also be clocking up between two-and-a-half and five hours of moderate intensity exercise every week.

“That’s why we would like to see more safe, physical activity-friendly communities which enable and encourage the use of active transport such as walking and cycling.”

Heart Foundation Victoria Healthy Living Manager Roni Beauchamp said regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart and your health.

“Regular activity makes adults less likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease,” Ms Beauchamp said. “It also helps control risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight.

“There are so many benefits of daily exercise for children: from improved concentration and better self-confidence to stronger muscles and bones. Research also suggests that physical activity helps to reduce the risk of children and young people developing health and other problems in later life. 

“Walking the kids to school instead of dropping them off in the car is also a great way for families to establish healthy habits and spend quality time together.”

LiveLighter’s top tips on getting active:

  • Start with a simple activity. Walking is a great example. Plan a walk to the park, a lap around the block or if you have a dog think about taking everyone walking together.
  • Join a local walking group. The Heart Foundation has the largest free walking network in Australia. It’s fun, social and an easy way to stay active.
  • Set aside time to get out as a family away from screens. Spend some time being active as a family in the backyard! Play some games, have a family cricket match or do some gardening.
  • Get active in the neighbourhood. Local parks, wetlands, playgrounds, foot and bike paths are often closer than you think.
  • Head to the LiveLighter website for more tips and resources.

 

LiveLighter® is a public health education campaign encouraging Australian adults to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. In Victoria, the campaign is delivered by Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation Victoria. In Western Australia, LiveLighter is delivered by Heart Foundation WA and Cancer Council WA, the LiveLighter campaign is funded by the State Government of Western Australia. For more healthy tips, recipes and advice visit www.livelighter.com.au