Around three-quarters of Australians are unaware that exercise is good for their heart health, according to a new Heart Foundation survey, despite physical inactivity being a key risk factor for heart disease – the single leading cause of death in Australia.
This is one of the findings of new Heart Foundation research that will be unveiled today at the Australian Walking and Cycling Conference.
The research will form part of the keynote address to be delivered by the Heart Foundation’s Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton.
In our national survey of 2895 Australians, the overwhelming majority – 93 per cent – agreed that physical activity is good for overall health and wellbeing.
However, when we asked respondents to name specific health benefits of physical activity, only 27 per cent listed heart/cardiovascular health.
Australians aged 55 and over were significantly more likely to know that physical activity could benefit your heart (38 per cent).
The survey suggests that Australians have poor knowledge generally of the benefits of physical activity. Fewer than one in four (24 per cent) could accurately name three benefits spontaneously.
Top responses included mental health (46per cent) and weight loss/management (32 per cent).
Professor Shilton said the survey revealed an alarmingly low awareness among Australians that physical activity could help protect them from heart disease.
“It’s concerning that just over a quarter of the respondents could tell us unprompted that physical activity is good for their hearts,” Professor Shilton said.
“This suggests many Australians still aren’t getting the message that being active is one of the best things they can do for their heart health. Just 30 minutes a day of brisk walking can cut your risk of heart disease by a third.
“The figures also highlight the need for ongoing public education and media campaigns to raise awareness about the many impressive health benefits of everyday physical activity.
“Regular physical activity not only reduces your risk of heart disease, but also diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and some cancers. If it were a medicine, we’d all be taking it to live longer, healthier and happier lives.
“With so many of us still locked down or spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staying active is more important than ever to our physical and mental health.”
In his keynote address, Professor Shilton will also discuss ways in which the Heart Foundation advocates to get Australians moving, including its Blueprint for an Active Australia and the Healthy Active by Design initiative.
The Heart Foundation also runs Australia’s largest network of free walking groups, Heart Foundation Walking, which has more than 1200 groups and 77,000 members across Australia.
The Australian Walking and Cycling Conference is being held today (1 October 2020) and tomorrow. Due to COVID-19, it is being run online. The event is hosted by Newcastle Cycleways Movement in partnership with the University of Newcastle and local councils in Newcastle, NSW.
The program includes several other Heart Foundation presenters, as well as guest speakers from across Australia and around the world.