Getting Australians to pump iron

Public health campaigns similar to those used to discourage smoking are needed to get more Australians lifting weights, says a Victoria University researcher.

Dr Jason Bennie, a Research Fellow at VU’s Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living (ISEAL), says while strength training offers a huge range of health benefits, research shows very few Australians do weights or resistance training.

He recently examined a decade of data from 2001 to 2010 that showed more than 80% of nearly 200,000 Australian adults surveyed did not participate in any muscle-strengthening activities – with participation rates declining with age.

Those least likely to be involved were from socio-economically disadvantaged or regional and remote areas, or, with lower education levels.

Australian guidelines for physical activity have traditionally promoted brisk walks or jogging, but they also now recommend at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening for adults.

This could involve weight machines, exercise bands, hand-held weights, or using one’s own body weight to do exercises such as push-ups or sit-ups.

“Public health campaigns could help overcome negative stereotypes about strength training, including perceptions that it leads to excessive muscle, can cause injury, or needs to take place in a ‘hyper-masculine’ setting like a gym,” he said.

Dr Bennie called for more affordable and attractive places to perform strength training including machines in open community spaces.

A more comprehensive article on this topic was recently published on The Conversation.

View the the full research paper.

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