Australians living longer, but we aren’t ageing well

11 April 2024

Despite Australians living longer, our prolonged lifespan is overshadowed by poor health and dissatisfaction as 75% of the population fail to meet physical activity and recommendations.

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has emphasised the urgent need for Australians to ramp up their physical activity, as opposed to squandering a staggering $2.4 billion on managing diseases resulting from sedentary, inactive lifestyles.

While Australia ranks third globally for life expectancy, following Monaco and Japan (according to the United Nations), millions still grapple everyday with preventable disease and disability, unaware that exercise is the best medicine.

“Your health is the largest contributing factor to determine how long and able your life will be,” said Tobias Atkins, ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Atkins Health CEO.

“In a cost-of-living crisis and with private health insurance premiums rises from April 1, chronic conditions, such as dementia and cancer, are now the leading cause of death in Australia, (accounting for 9 out of 10 fatalities).

“There needs to be a drastic shift from illness to wellness, advocating for healthier habits and boosting physical activity – 30 minutes a day.

“We need to be motivating individuals to be spending time, energy and money on things that get their body doing what they are designed for and the things that will improve health span (stress relief, anxiety reduction, social connection, movement/ exercise, nutrition).

“There's compelling evidence supporting for the involvement of exercise and sports science professionals in promoting physical activity across the broader population. This includes their expertise in prescribing exercise aimed at preventing chronic diseases and their success in delivering interventions promoting healthy lifestyles on a wider scale.

“Most health insurance policies do in fact give access to exercise physiology services, which isn’t widely known. It’s important for all Australians to check their policies, and ask for EP services to be included.”

ESSA engaged Deloitte Access Economics to quantify the value of Accredited Exercise Physiologists in Australia. This is important given the nature of ongoing health reforms, which are increasingly being aimed at consumer directed care models.

The report finds that Accredited Exercise Physiologists would deliver large benefits from the consumer’s perspective for depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

On average, it was estimated that for every $1 a consumer spends engaging the services of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, they could receive benefits of $10.50 in terms of improved wellbeing, improved productivity and reduced out of pocket health system expenditure.

This May, ESSA is launching Exercise Right Week – Just Move campaign, encouraging Aussies to just move for 30 minutes every day, their own way – whether cleaning the house, walking the dog, jumping on the trampoline with the kids, or a daily walk with friends.

“Just moving for 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference to your health and well-being,” said ESSA Ambassador and former Olympic swimming champion, Duncan Armstrong OAM OLY.

“Whether you’re suffering from an injury, battling something bigger like cancer, dementia or diabetes, or you just want to up your fitness game, it’s important to get the right advice from an exercise and movement expert to ensure you’re exercising right.”

Mr. Atkins said that while progress in modern medicine has led to an increase in the life expectancy of the average Australian there has also been a drastic decline in our health span expectancy.

“People are living longer but we are spending a greater percentage of our life in an unhappy and unhealthy state. More hospital admissions, more doctor visits, more money spent on managing preventable health issues,” he said.

“This burden is unfortunately passed onto everyone either privately funded through the patient’s own pocket or loved ones or publicly through taxpayer dollars.

“Efforts must be directed towards creating a sustainable healthcare future and prioritising preventative measures such as exercise, to enhance your quality of life.”

ESSA’s Exercise Right Week will kick off from May 20-26, inviting Aussies to take the challenge and move their body, their way, every single day!

To learn more and to get involved, visit: Exercise Right Week 2024.