3 November 2004





In a frank admission today, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Horvath, said he often hates the thought of doing exercise, but he persists because he feels so much better once he has made the effort.


“As a doctor I know the benefits to both physical and mental health from regular exercise but, like most Australians, I am busy, preoccupied and often find it hard to make time for such healthy pursuits,” Professor Horvath, admitted today.


“Doing regular exercise is often a daunting prospect for many Australians who struggle to get through their day as it is without putting aside time for a brisk walk, jog, a swim, a session at the gym or playing sport.


“Many commercial gyms and sellers of exercise equipment are laughing all the way to the bank as so many of us join up in a fit of enthusiasm, but never return after a few sessions because we cannot find the time or the motivation.


“Yes, its hard work to exercise, but the results are fantastic and people do not have to go to extremes to get a great deal of benefit from regular exercise.


“For example, making a decision and sticking to it, for the whole family to take a brisk 20 minute walk before school and work, or before dinner at night, offers the combined benefits of everyone in the family spending some time together and keeping everyone fit,” Professor Horvath said.


“While this may not be possible for every family, individuals should make time for themselves each day to do some exercise – I can guarantee it you will feel so much better and your health will benefit.”


Professor Horvath said research has shown that people benefit from even moderate amounts of exercise and there is strong evidence that people suffering from depression find great relief through exercise.


“Studies comparing those who are physically active with those who are less active have shown lower overall death rates among the more active people. 


“This applies even to people who adopt a physically active lifestyle in middle age or later, showing it is never too late to start being active. 


“Moderate physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.


“There is also good evidence that physical activity helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and some evidence that it may protect against the development of depression.  Recent studies have shown the effect of physical activity on brain structure and function, reducing the rate of decline in brain function as people age.”


Professor Horvath said half an hour of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most days of the week (150 minutes per week) is sufficient to gain health benefit. To lose weight, the equivalent of an hour of brisk walking each day is required.


Professor Horvath said, like New Years Day, or World No Tobacco Day which people use as a designated day to give up smoking, let this Friday, November 5th, be the day you make the commitment to take up exercise.


“Friday, 5th November is Australia’s national Walk to Work Day where everyone is encouraged to leave the car at home, or at least some distance from work or school, and take a walk,” Professor Horvath said.


“Thousands of Australians are participating in this activity and it is a good time to focus on starting an exercise regime that could change your life forever.”


Note to Media:  Professor Horvath will be joining the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, in a walk on Friday, 5th November, accompanied by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Peter Shergold, and other department heads and public servants for a brisk walk in Canberra. (Beginning at 8 am from the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery)


Professor Horvath is available for media interviews in an effort to promote Walk to Work Day and the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle.


Enquires through:  Kay McNiece, 0412 132 585