One in five Australians don't have the time to look after their health
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One in five Australians don't have the time to look after their health

Stacy Morgan knows what it's like to be time poor. Her days are scheduled around the family business, wrangling four children and studying full-time.

But she's a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and has made physical activity and healthy eating a priority, for herself and her family.

Busy mum of 4, and full time student Stacy Morgan manages to find time to exercise in her busy schedule. Stacy with her 4 children, from left, Scarlett 8, Alex 13, Lachlan 14 and Zac 17. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Busy mum of 4, and full time student Stacy Morgan manages to find time to exercise in her busy schedule. Stacy with her 4 children, from left, Scarlett 8, Alex 13, Lachlan 14 and Zac 17. Photo: Jamila ToderasCredit:Jamila Toderas

"You have to make it a priority," Ms Morgan says. "It's about being organised, and putting things in your diary, and being mentally committed to a healthy lifestyle."

If she's not attending the gym before the children get up, or fitting in a lunch time class between lectures, Ms Morgan, looks for opportunities for unscheduled physical activity with her three teenage sons and young daughter and her husband Barry.

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"We might take a walk as a family, or go on a bike ride, or just play basketball out the back with the kids."

Ms Morgan has just completed a degree in nutrition at the University of Canberra and says her keys to healthy family eating is to plan ahead.

"We plan meals, shop once a week, if you come home and you know that the food is in the fridge for that night's meal you're less likely to make unhealthy choices," she says.

Ms Morgan is one of the lucky ones. A new study led by the Australian National University has found that one in five people, aged between 25 and 54, don't have time to exercise.

Lead researcher Dr Lyndall Strazdins, from ANU's Research School of Population Health, said being time poor is a real phenomena and "not just a problem of people's minds".

"We recognise there are people in society who don't have enough resources when it comes to income, we need to recognise that people are time poor as well," Dr Strazdins says.

"When resources are scarce it's harder to make choices and people start doing the essentials and for most of us that's holding down a job and looking after the family."

The study followed about 5000 people aged 25 to 54 over three years, as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey.

Dr Strazdins said results from the first longitudinal study of time as a determinant of health rang alarm bells for health problems including obesity, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

"The overworking culture in Australia is entrenched. We need to limit working hours so people can spend more time doing things that are good for their health," she said.

Dr Strazdins said it lacks logic to require people to do more and not realise they will have to cut back on something.

"As a nation we need to have policies that can support people in the high crunch time of their lives, policies that can bring back working time so we don't have one in eight Australians working longer than 50 hours a week," Dr Strazdins said.

"These are things we need to be having a national conversation about."

Ms Morgan would like to take her nutrition degree and be part of that conversation.

"I realise there are many high powered careers, pressure jobs, where people do not have the choice to get out for a run at lunch, or they're eating at their desk," Ms Morgan says.

"But do we need to make those workplaces accountable for the health of their employees in someway? Do we need to think of ways to implement policy in all workplaces that encourage physical activity and a healthy eating environment?"








Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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