Australia is one of only two countries in the world with national all-age laws which punish citizens for enjoying one of society's most frquent, healthy and safe forms of recreational exercise - bike riding.
This page displays an assortment of press clippings plus a media release concerning Australian public health.
In summary, a growing number of Australians are overweight and the country needs to do some more exercise.
As reported below, children in Western Australia are at risk of having a lower life expectancy than their parents for the first time in history - mostly because of obesity.
About 7.4 million Australians, or half of all adult women and two thirds of adult men, are overweight or obese because they are not sufficiently active, according to the Australian Heart Foundation.
As reported on May 12, 2009, "The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007-08 National Health Survey, released yesterday, found that 68 per cent of adult men and 55 per cent of adult women were obese or overweight. This is an increase from the 1995 survey when 64 per cent of men and 49 per cent of women were considered overweight or obese."
The journal of the Australian Medical Association estimates as many as 17,000 Australian deaths each year can be attributed to obesity and calculates that overweight and obesity are now more prevalent risk factors for disease than smoking (see Australian Medical Journal, April 2005).
Childhood Obesity: An Economic Perspective published by the Australian Productivity Commission in September 2010 found the weight of Australian children has increased markedly in recent decades, to the point where around 8% are obese and 17% are overweight: "The relationship between physical activity and obesity may be stronger than for many of the other factors. While organised physical activity in children may not be decreasing, it appears that incidental exercise, such as walking to school, has declined." The report fails to mention that the number of Australian children walking or riding a bicycle to school has plunged from about 80% in 1977 to the current level around 5% - most of the reduction when mandatory bicycle helmet laws were enforced.
As reported in November 2011, "Figures released today show 252,000 Victorians are known to be living with diabetes, skyrocketing from 95,000 in 2001.". Diabetes is one of the many illnesses that stem from discouragement of daily recreational exercise.
As stated by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, "Helmet laws are very likely to have been a key contributor to Australians' decline in physical activity that has led to the obesity epidemic."
The Australian Bicycle Council, a subsidiary of the Australian Government's Department of Transport, stated in its March 2004 communique:
Bicycling is part of the solution to many of our cities problems: the obesity epidemic, traffic congestion, air pollution and more. The mainstream health message these days is that people need to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days, to maintain health. Increased incidental exercise (ie exercise that is built into 'activities of daily living') is often recommended as the best way to ensure adequate daily levels of exercise are achieved. This is because this kind of exercise is often 'maintained' (ie kept up) more consistently than, for example going to the gym or playing sport. Walking and cycling to work are two good forms of incidental exercise - no surprise there!
Cycling and health: an opportunity for positive change? (PDF 112kb) was published in April 2009 by The Medical Journal of Australia. This editorial by Public Health Professor Adrian Bauman and University of Sydney Associate Professor of Public Health Chris Rissel accurately describes the enormous public health benefits of cycling. However and as with all academic papers seeking publication in Australia, the editorial avoids mentioning the country's most significant public health disaster - helmet laws that punish people for cycling.
Consider the views of New Zealand Public Health Physician Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who presented "Cycling: your health, the public's health and the planet's health" (PDF file 24kb) to the New Zealand Cycling Symposium in 2000.
All research papers at least partly blame an increasingly sedentary lifestyle for Australia's obesity levels. Greater public recreational exercise is encouraged to stem a looming public health crisis.
Surveys show only about half of all men and women in Western Australia undertake the recommended levels of physical exercise.
The Premier's Physical Activity Taskforce (PDF 548KB) in Western Australia reported that the proportion of West Australian adults above a healthy weight increased from 39% in 1999 to 49% in 2006. In line with cyclist numbers reported on this site, the survey found cycling participation among West Australian adults dropped from 9% in 1999 to 8% in 2002 before returning to 9% in 2006.
Health experts say adults should undertake 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Cycling is classified as a moderate-intensity activity.