Australia’s global physical inactivity ranking

News /

Share this

Woman running outside.
Australia has ranked in the bottom half of 168 countries involved in a new World Health Organisation study measuring insufficient levels of physical activity in adults around the globe.

Australia has ranked in the bottom half of 168 countries involved in a new World Health Organisation study measuring insufficient levels of physical activity in adults around the globe.

Published today in The Lancet Global Health journal, the study looked at self-reported activity levels in 1.9 million people aged 18 years and over.

Key findings for Australia include:

  • 30.4% of Australian adults did not reach the recommended levels of physical activity to stay healthy in 2016.
  • Australia ranked 97 out of 168 countries in the study.
  • 27% of Australian men are insufficiently active, compared with 33.6% of women.
  • Australia’s ranking was roughly in line with Austria (30.1%), Maldives (30.3%), Tunisia (30.4%) and Turkey (30.6%).
  • Countries that fared better than Australia included Uganda (the top-rated country, with 5.5%), China (14.1%), Canada (28.6%) and Mexico (28.9%).
  • Countries that fared worse than Australia included Kuwait (the bottom-rated country, with 67%), the USA (40%), the United Kingdom (35.9%) and Japan (35.5%).
  • Of our near neighbours, Indonesia’s rate of physical inactivity was better (22.6%), as was Papua New Guinea’s (14.8%). New Zealand’s was worse (42.4%).

Heart Foundation comment:

Heart Foundation’s spokesperson on physical activity, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, said it is disheartening that almost one-third of Australian adults were insufficiently active in 2016.

“This study shows that the message about the importance of physical activity still isn’t getting through to many Australians, and there is much room for improvement,” Professor Shilton said.

“It is vitally important that we take notice of this research because physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease, which continues to be the leading killer of Australians,” he said.

“A particularly interesting finding in the study was that women were less active than men in most parts of the world, including Australia. Physical activity is one of the only areas of health where women fare worse than men.”  

Professor Shilton said the Heart Foundation has some great initiatives to get Aussies moving.

“This includes our network of free walking groups across Australia – a program that is supported by the federal government.

“We are also assisting in the development of healthy neighbourhoods and active communities through our Healthy Active by Design program.

“The countries that will succeed in this space are those where there is strong government commitment to physical activity policy, programs, education and environments.

“In terms of government support and policy on physical activity, Australia has made some good progress.

“Last month, we saw the launch of the federal government’s National Sports Plan, encouraging Australians of all ages to participate in sport and physical activity in every stage of their life.

“This came with a bold commitment to reduced inactivity among Australians by 15% by 2030.

“There’s also a new government-funded marketing campaign – Move It AUS – that’s urging Australians to pursue 30 minutes of heart-rate-raising physical activity every day.   

“While we are certainly pleased by these initiatives, we would welcome further discussion with Australia’s governments on ways to improve our levels of physical inactivity, including the need for a funded national physical activity action plan,” Professor Shilton said.

For interviews, please contact Siobhan McMahon, Media Manager – Physical Activity, Heart Foundation by phone on 0478 313 656 or email at siobhan.mcmahon@heartfoundation.org.au