this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

common sense

There are talks, as always, how more exercise and eating well will address the obesity levels in Australia, which might be the highest in the world.

I read a radio report on radio national the other day (I will link it later) about the very successful Life Be in It campaign. It was very popular. Everyone remembers Norm who did all of his exercise from the armchair. It urged the general public to 'Put down the tinnie, switch off the tinne, and go outside for half an hour', or something similar. Again, I'll get the exact quote later. The campaign encouraged everyone to get off their butts for at least half an hour a day and exercise.

The latest reports say that if Australians ate better and exercised more our obesity rates and associated costs would be addressed. Not rocket science.

Apparently there have not been any campaigns like the 'Life Be in It' for a long time. One of the reasons it was so successful was that it was, ironically, on the television, a lot. High rotation, because the government allocated the campaign a large budget. Now a large percentage of the sport and health budget gets channelled into elite sports. It means we have a great swim team and we do very well at the Olympics. This policy came into being after Australia took only one gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Montreal in the seventies. Again, I'll confirm the place later - might not be Montreal. For all of their efforts, we took two gold medals in the Winter Olympics this year. Of course that is an improvement, but is the respect of the world for your international sports team worth sacrificing the general health of your nation? Both could exist, of course, - a public awareness campaign, and the elite sports programme. There is no denying the boost that the prowess of the Australian sports team gives to the Australian psyche, but I wonder about the benefits if our diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease rates are spiralling.

Another thing too, of course, is that I think that GST knocked off a lot of prices of cheap, unhealthy things that you can buy in bulk, and it tended to put cost onto healthy things like vegetables. I might be remiss in that statement, but when I go to the supermarket, it seems cheaper to buy a loaf of sliced whited bread full of nothingness, and a 24 pack of coke where the cans work out to less than fifty Australian cents each. It is tempting. And if you are on a budget, and more so, not that aware of nutrition, even more tempting. There used to be a luxury tax on such things as soft drinks, and there probably still is. Individually, they are very expensive, but in bulk, the supermarkets make them one of the cheapest things on the shelves.

Also, the major chains have a monopoly on the supply of fresh vegetables and the dictate how and what the farmers should grow. Great Irish Potato Famine anyone? Aside from that, the supermarkets therefore control the prices. A lot of people who do not have access to farmers' markets and so on are now growing their own vegetables. We used to have some of the cheapest fruit and vegetables in the world, I felt. Remember, I live in Japan. In the developed world, I will clarify that statement. Now the price of fresh vegetables is ridiculous. Of course, droughts and so on do not help, but if you seek out the smaller markets, the fruit and vegetables supplied are a lot cheaper.

The concern for avoiding litigation, perhaps, if that is what it is, the safety campaigns, I think have also encouraged a lack of interest in exercise. It is great that everyone wears their stack hats when riding their bicycles, but they are also a hassle, especially in our very hot climate, so people, rather than wearing them, just give up riding their bicycles.

Bicycles are not allowed on footpaths and the roads are not that great for them. In Japan, the bicycle riding habits of people can be summed up as dangerous - we ride on the wrong side, on the footpath, down narrow roads - but nearly everyone has a bicycle they can ride, and a lot of people, particularly the elderly and young, use them to get around. Japan is regulating and enforcing its road rules more so now, so I wonder in the future. However, I think that if you make it difficult to exercise, people won't exercise. They'd rather hop in their car to go to the supermarket than take their car (if they live close to a supermarket).

The baby capsules save babies lives in accidents, no doubt. I also wonder, though, about the baby screaming its head off who would benefit from a cuddle from mum or dad, and I wonder whether, especially if a parent is by, generally, herself, she just doesn't bother getting out of the house because of the hassle of strapping the baby into the car then getting her out again. You've seen it in the carparks. It's clumsy, cumbersome and takes forever. So, maybe mum and dad just stay at home rather than going out due to this regulation. I know it is a sensible regulation, but I wonder if the zealousness in which we enforce it damages us ultimately in an oblique way.

In playgrounds nowadays, everything is safe and padded. I cannot remember the last time I saw a see-saw in Australia. The old ones were dangerous, but fun. I remember jumping off and letting my sister crash to the ground, and the same has happened to me. It's not nice. Spinning around on the tractor wheel of the dizzy-wizzy was a blast, but I guess there were maybe too many smashed teeth, and too many suits against the local council. So, play becomes safe, computer play more appealing.

Lessen up on the regulations that are meant to make our lives healthier from a safety point of view, and I believe that our obesity levels would drop due to more people finding it easier to go out and be healthier. It's a spurious claim and can be countered in many ways, I think. But we get so precious with life, sometimes, that we forget to live it, and when our governments and local councils have an investment in this safety at all costs, and at the other end of the spectrum, success at all cost at the high end at the expense of the vast majority in the middle, then I am not surprised that we have become a people akin to a sack of potatoes. Too much monopoly from big business. Too few public awareness campaigns. Too many restrictions, though I do not endorse a complete laissez-faire policy towards general health and associated policies. Life Be In It. Update it. Bring it back. Encourage people to think, and make healthy food affordable.


MeanderingMelbourne said...

'Bicycles are not allowed on footpaths', a ha, ha, ha, ha! ;-) Mirthful laughter. Where I live in Australia that does not stop bicycles *being* on the footpath. In fact, I'm forever leaping out of their way. Last night I almost got plowed down twice by bikes and once by a scooter in one block. I think some of the riders choose the footpath so that they can ride helmet-less.

At traffic lights, waiting to cross the road, even if I have a green light I wait until the bike-on-the-road actually stops before I'll cross. (I will confess to terrible skill at road-crossing and footpath walking however, all my fault.)

However, I *do* know what you mean and I agree with your sentiments. Make it easy, otherwise people won't do it. Also, you rarely see anyone over 55-ish on a bike here.

lizardrinking said...

Hey, I didn't realise you had commented. I don't log into this site all that often. Just keep walking in the same direction. The bike will take care of itself, it is the faster moving object and you will only confuse the rider if you walk into his path or try to go around him when he has already decided to go around you. Footpaths are different. Guess they should have bells. The bike has seen you. It is behind you. It will take the necessary steps. Or cycles. That's the theory, anyway.

this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr