A new Australian study is the latest to reveal a troubling trend: Today’s youths aren’t getting as much exercise as their parents did. Compounded with advances in labor-saving technology and a widespread car culture, Generation Y is at an even greater risk of "sitting disease" — the sedentary lifestyle that a long list of experts have attributed to obesity.
Researchers at the University of Sydney drew their data from fifteen years of cross-generational surveys of Australians. The picture isn’t pretty: Twentysomething women are getting an average of only 15 minutes of daily exercise, half as much as their baby-boomer counterparts. Beyond exercise, says study author Dr. Margaret Allman-Farinelli, smaller changes in Australians’ daily physical activity have added up in a big way:
The study notes baby boomers and earlier generations were born into a world "before the television, computer and widespread motor vehicle usage, so … their everyday physical activity energy expenditure was probably greater".
"Individuals born after 1970 entered a high-tech society with few demands on physical activity."
Longer working hours and fewer opportunities for physical activity in the workplace could provide one explanation for the difference across the generations, Dr Allman-Farinelli said.
Today’s news echoes last week’s study that showed how lifestyle factors play a far bigger role than food choices do in weight control. Bottom line: The ‘good food’/’bad food’ approach to health favored by Center for Science in the Public Interest and other food police simply isn’t the best way to address the so-called obesity epidemic. It isn’t a coincidence that lower caloric expenditures have led to a rise in obesity. The same phenomenon is as true in the United States as it is in Australia.
But action can easily be taken. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Support physical education in public schools. Make physical activity a part of your life. Over time, Americans and Australians alike will see wide-scale changes in both their widths and their scales.