Date Published: 2 March 2009

Boomers more physically active than gen Y

Health News from Australia.

Generation Y are exercising less and becoming overweight earlier than the Baby Boomers were at the same age, a new study by the University of Sydney has shown.

Associate Professor in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Margaret Allman-Farinelli, from the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences at the University of Sydney, has completed a cross-generational study examining the last four National Health Surveys from 1990 to 2005 to determine the effects of generation and age on the duration and kilojoules expended in leisure time physical activity over the period.

"The results indicate that younger Australians are living increasingly more sedentary lifestyles than their predecessors, with less time spent in physical exercise than people of retirement age," Associate Professor Allman-Farinelli said.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that Generation Y males are exercising far less than previous generations were at the same age, evidenced in the progressive drop in the amount of energy expended in leisure time over successive generations of men.

The results also revealed that women in their twenties are doing the least amount of exercise, spending only a little over fifteen minutes per day in leisure time physical activity. Health authorities recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days to maintain a healthy weight, with double that time needed to combat overweight and obesity.

Despite the decline in physical activity in younger generations, the study revealed a peak in the number of older Australians engaged in physical activities, with the majority of retirees reaching the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day.

"These people are less time-poor and can actually concentrate on their health," Associate Professor Allman-Farinelli believes. "Many have come across a chronic illness at this stage in their lives and look to taking positive steps against them, whereas the young are 'invincible' and are more time-poor, especially when they are at the age with young children."

"Clearly Generation Y needs to lift its game," she said. "All of Generation Y would benefit from doing more leisure time physical activity to override weight issues."

Associate Professor Allman-Farinelli believes longer working hours and fewer opportunities for physical activity in the workplace and in transport may attest to the generational differences in the findings.

"We can't expect all the physical activity that people require to be achieved in leisure time," she said. "We definitely have to start to look at the workplace and transport when considering physical activity, when people are spending more and more time working."

"Also, students between study and part-time work have less time for physical activity as they're balancing demanding hours," she said.

The findings justify the rising obesity and overweight figures amongst younger Australians, of whom nearly 38% aged 18-24 are overweight. The complications that arise from obesity, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, cost Australia an estimated $58 billion per year.



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