An Australian study has found that 1 in 5 Australians, aged 25 to 54 do not have time exercise or to eat healthy.
The study, Your money or your time? How both types of scarcity matter to physical activity and healthy eating, should ring alarm bells with statistics also showing increasing rates of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes in Australia. Recent statistics show that two-thirds of adults (63%) and one-quarter of children are overweight or obese. Australia has the fifth-highest rate of obesity in the world for people aged 15 years and over.
The study followed about 5,000 people aged 25 to 54 over a 3-year period as part of the national HILDA Survey (Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia). People with 70 hours per week committed to work, commuting, and caring duties, were considered too time poor to be able to fit exercise and cooking healthy food into their weekly routine.
The study found that one in five people, aged between 25 and 54, don’t have time to exercise. Worldwide, insufficient physical activity accounts for 6 to 10% of chronic disease burden.
A lack of income can constrain people’s capacity to buy fresh food and access to the amenities and services that support physical activity. However, time seems to be the biggest resource people need to be healthy. Being active takes time, as does buying and preparing nutritious food.
Being time poor (measured by hours) and feeling rushed had the biggest impact on inactivity. Feeling rushed was associated with increased eating out and eating discretionary calories (by 9%). When rushing and time pressure persisted over two years, a 12% drop in fruit and vegetable consumption was observed.
When time poverty was combined with income poverty typically synergistic effects were observed on physical activity. For example, on its own, low income leads to a 5% increase in inactivity over one year, but when combined with time scarcity leads to a 12%, and over two years to a 22% increase in inactivity.
Ultimately, time rather than income seems to be the biggest barrier to our health. Individuals are working longer hours, to the detriment of their health. One in eight workers are working more than 50 hours a week. We need to have more discussion and awareness, to encourage physical activity and healthy eating. Failure to do so will eventually result in a heavy burden to the individual and the Australian health system.
Individuals need to be organised and committed to a healthy lifestyle, and make it a priority. You need to plan ahead. If you come home, know what you are going to cook and the ingredients are in the fridge, you’re less likely to make unhealthy choices and consume discretionary calories. Exercise needs to be scheduled in just like any other activity. Start with achievable goals to exercise two or three times a week. Keep the exercise routine going for at least a month, that way you are more likely to do it on a regular basis.
Look at the long-term outcome. Weigh up the effort required to put a plan into place now, with the long-term outcome of better health and vitality.