‘We will have to build factories to cut off people’s toes’ screamed the front page headline on the Sunday paper; ‘Dire warning on diabetes’.
A bit sensationalist, surely? Perhaps not. Perhaps this is the in-your-face approach needed to keep the obesity epidemic at the forefront of mainstream conversation.
But it’s already in the mainstream, isn’t it? Shows like The Biggest Loser have highlighted that Australia is no longer the fit and healthy nation that it is often perceived to be. True, but do we really talk about society’s problem, or merely that of the handful of people on our screens?
If you work in the fitness and health industries, you will be hyper-aware of this issue – but what will it take to make the rest of society sit up, listen and actually do something? The collapse of the healthcare system that many doctors predict?
It can be tempting to think that, if people can’t control their own wellbeing, government should intervene. By doing what – banning certain foods and drinks and prescribing compulsory exercise in exchange for healthcare? Even if this was workable, it goes against what we know about long term behaviour change needing to be self-determined.
There is currently pressure being put on the NZ government to follow the UK by heavily taxing sugary drinks. But, as ExerciseNZ’s CEO Richard Beddie says, education is a preferable course of action.
In this feature in the new Winter 2016 Network magazine, Australian Fitness Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Lisa Westlake, also writes of the need to reach the huge percentage of non-exercisers by spreading the word to our local communities at every given opportunity.
The topic of how we realise our potential as an industry by making as big a difference as we can was on the table at Network’s recent #FILEX2016 Convention. On an individual level, we are vastly enhancing, and sometimes even saving, lives – the challenge is to extend this reach beyond the small percentage who currently participate in adequate levels of physical activity.
Something has to change: if it doesn’t, those ‘dire warning’ headlines will become more than just ominous predictions.