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Get Off The Couch And Save Your Life

More than 50 percent of Kiwis are overweight or obese. Agencies for Nutrition Action concludes a series of forums throughout New Zealand in Dunedin today (June 20) at which the organisation examines the huge cost in lives and dollars resulting from this statistic. However it’s not only the food that we eat that is the cause, says the Hillary Commission.

Hundreds of lives each year can be saved in just half an hour a day, according to the Hillary Commission.

That’s how much moderate exercise a person needs to stay healthy, and most importantly avoid obesity, says Nigel Cass, Manager Active Living for the Hillary Commission.

The Hillary Commission is taking part in a series of nutrition forums currently being held around New Zealand by Agencies for Nutrition Action. The group, comprising organisations such as the Cancer Society, Heart Foundation, Te Hotu Manawa Maori, and the Diabetes Forum, released a report of the state of the nation’s weight last week.

“And it’s not a healthy picture,” Mr Cass says.

With more than 1000 kiwis dying from obesity every year and the cost in health care for those carrying the weight topping $130 million, the Hillary Commission agrees with ANA’s report findings: it’s time something was done.

“The report is an excellent non government paper making the important link between nutrition and activity. The Ministry of Health has recognised the problem. Now there is a need to back it up and address these findings with resources. We need to be out there getting involved with the health of the population – not the ‘illth’,” he says.

The Hillary Commission is promoting a number of initiatives to encourage New Zealanders to be more active such as Push Play, Green Prescriptions and Kiwi Walks.

“The Ministry of Health estimates that more than 2100 New Zealanders die prematurely as a result of not being active for 30 minutes a day,” Mr Cass says.

The key message of the commission’s programmes is “some is better than none”.

“We have to get away from the ‘no pain, no gain’ way of thinking. The most significant health benefits are gained by taking those first steps off the couch. Even if you just do three 10 minute bursts of activity, that’s enough. Obviously, the more you do, the better off you will be,” Mr Cass says.

He says it’s important “not to set the bar too high”.

“Research clearly shows there is a level of physical activity which everyone can do – even if it’s just going out to the letterbox three times a day or walking to meet the kids off the school bus.”

People should be viewing movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience, Mr Cass says.

ANA executive officer Sue Zimmerman says she is delighted with the way in which the organisation’s forums have been received this week following the release of ANA’s updated Healthy Weight New Zealand report.

“The fact more than 1000 Kiwis die every year from obesity and that there is an annual health care cost to the country of more than $130 million has really made New Zealand sit up and take notice,” Ms Zimmerman says.

“The next step is getting the resources we need to put in place programmes to address the problem.”

ANA aims to encourage New Zealanders to eat more healthily and be more active and thereby prevent future weight gain. It comprises the Cancer Society, National Heart Foundation, National Diabetes Forum, Dietetic Association, Te Hotu Manawa Maori and New Zealand Nutrition Foundation.


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