The Australian Government's investment in health and sport will increase again to a total of $69.7 billion in the 2015-16* budget but the general message around healthy diet and lifestyle doesn't seem to be getting through.
The Priceline Pharmacy 2015 National Women's Health Report suggests that despite the large amount of easily accessible health information, Australian women still aren't taking care of themselves.
One of the most alarming results was that younger Australian women (aged 16-24) were found to have the highest levels of poor nutrition and sedentary behaviours compared to older women surveyed.
The findings revealed that 72% of women aged 16-24 reported poor nutrition, with another 65% of the same age group reporting insufficient exercise. Both of these findings gradually declined amongst older age groups, with women 65+ reporting the least amount of poor nutrition habits at just 42% and also the second-least amount of insufficient exercise at 58%.
While there are the obvious impacts to physical health with not eating well and failing to exercise, the Priceline Pharmacy 2015 National Women's Health Report also found a concerning link between poor eating habits and mental health in Australian women. Those who reported poor mental and physical health were 4.6 times more likely to skip meals, 1.3 times more likely to report low fruit and vegetable consumption and 11 times more likely consume fried foods on a frequent basis.
Priceline Pharmacy Dietitian Melanie McGrice says, 'I'm always shocked to see the high numbers of Australian women with poor nutrition, especially given the great food and amount of information readily available! I find that busy lives, not prioritising our own health and a lack of cooking skills can all play a significant role in poor eating habits, especially when it comes to getting enough fruit and veg. Good nutrition is vital for keeping us healthy, inside and out. Unfortunately, a poor diet can also have a significant impact our energy levels, immunity and mental health."
As a result of these survey findings, and in an effort to raise awareness of potential health risks especially amongst younger women customers, Priceline Pharmacy will roll out new in-store and online initiatives across Australia including:
Enhanced online Health Tracker program, offering free customised meal and activity planners (click here to view)
60 new digital health kiosks available in key stores to assess BMI, blood pressure, heart rate and body fat percentage
Free 15-minute Women's Health Checks with a pharmacist will be available at participating Priceline Pharmacy stores around the country offering lifestyle discussions, cholesterol tests, breast check instructions, blood pressure readings, anaemia screenings and weight evaluation. This will be a free service until the end of November.
Other key statistics:
38,000 people across every Australian state and territory have completed the Priceline Pharmacy Health Tracker online survey. More than 32,000 of participants were female 82% of women reported low fruit & veg intake
62% of women reported poor nutrition
62% of women reported insufficient activity
51% of women reported a BMI of 25 or above (overweight, obese or extreme obesity)
33% of women reported frequent anxiety
Question: What surprised you most about the 2015 National Women's Health Report?
Stephanie Prem: My biggest surprise was that young women aged 16-24 are putting their health at risk the most with the highest levels of poor nutrition (72%) and insufficient exercise (65%) reported. Both of these findings gradually declined amongst older age groups, with women 65+ reporting the least amount of poor nutrition habits at just 42% and also the second-least amount of insufficient exercise at 58%.
Question: What is correct amount of exercise an Australian women needs, weekly?
Stephanie Prem: Just 30 mins of moderate exercise a day can dramatically improve your overall health and wellbeing. This can be split up throughout the day - it does not need to all be at once! It does not need to be high intensity; we just need to avoid sedentary behaviours and embrace a more active lifestyle. It's that simple!
Question: Are you surprised that 62% of Australian women were not meeting this guideline?
Stephanie Prem: Yes, particularly as the Australian Government's investment in health and sport will increase again to a total of $69.7 billion in the 2015-16 – it seems that the general message around healthy diet and lifestyle doesn't seem to be getting through. Stats showing that 72% of women have poor nutrition and 65% take insufficient exercise show there's still a job to be done when it comes to encouraging healthier nutrition and exercise habits amongst women. That's why I'm an absolute advocate for the Priceline Pharmacy's women's health checks and health kiosks - they are free until the end of November, easily accessible interactive, educational and fun! Women can now even check their own health online with the Priceline Pharmacy Health Tracker.
Question: What advice do you have for women who wish to increase their weekly exercise?
Stephanie Prem: Start small! If you are just starting out then take baby steps - it does not need to be daunting, intimidating or time consuming. Start by walking each day before or after work or school or, even better, to and from work or school. Walking the dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, team sports and working out with a buddy are all small ways you can immediately and dramatically increase your daily fitness and improve your overall health.
It's also important to know your BMI – the Priceline Pharmacy survey found that the prevalence of -obese' BMI ratings was higher amongst women reporting insufficient exercise. Women should take advantage of the free Women's Health Check at Priceline Pharmacy to see how much they weigh – and make sure they are on the right exercise plan for their body type.
Question: What is required in a balanced diet?
Stephanie Prem: Eating nutrient and protein dense meals 3-5 times per day. A healthy relationship with food is also key! Food isn't the enemy – when you eat the right foods, they'll make you strong, fit and healthy.
Question: Why is it important to not skip meals?
Stephanie Prem: Sometimes people think that skipping meals will help them shed weight – but that's just not the case. Skipping meals causes your blood-sugar levels to drop and you'll feel tired and unwell. Also, without a regular supply of energy, your system will shift into starvation mode to conserve energy. This means your metabolism will slow, so the food you do eventually take in will burn much more slowly.
Not only will it not help you lose weight, skipping meals will also do nothing for your mental health. Without a stable supply of nutrients, your brain functioning changes and you can become bad tempered and foggy.
Question: How does anxiety relate to poor nutrition and insufficient activity?
Stephanie Prem: The findings showed a concerning and growing link between poor mental and physical health. Women who reported poor mental health and suffered from things like stress and anxiety were 4.6 times more likely to skip meals, 1.3 times more likely to have a low fruit and vegetable intake, and 11 times more likely to consume fried foods when compared to women who reported excellent mental health.
Question: What are the effects on our health of a poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle?
Stephanie Prem: I think as women we always have the tendency to put ourselves last. Unfortunately this can take its toll on our health and Australian women often downplay the importance of health. Not taking care of nutrition and the amount of daily activity women take means they could be putting themselves at risk of obesity, illness, poor mental health and poor physical health in general.
Question: Can you talk us through a typical day's food, for you?
Stephanie Prem: I'm a huge advocate of a warm lemon water first thing in the morning followed by a protein rich breaky (like eggs on toast with greens) as it sets you up for the day and gives you longer lasting energy.
I snack once or twice a day and will usually go for a cup of tea and a protein ball or handful of nuts or a smoothie.
For lunch I'll go for a nutritious salad with some protein rich fish, beans or chicken
For dinner it's key to have protein and vegetables. My favourite combination is salmon and veggies with sweet potato fries!
Question: And, what about your weekly exercise plan?
Stephanie Prem: Ideally I like to have two Pilates classes and two strength sessions a week (like boot camp, personal training or a gym circuit). For me it's important to mix it up, keeping it fun and interesting.
I also teach 25-30 fitness and Pilates classes at my business Studio PP per week so incidental exercise is a huge part of my daily/weekly exercise regime too.