A worrying number of Kiwis exercise less than once a week a survey has found.
A study of 2000 people commissioned by Southern Cross Health found nearly a quarter broke a sweat less than once a week, though another quarter exercised at least once a day.
The Health Ministry recommends adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week. More than 60 per cent of those questioned do not.
Wellington and Dunedin were the most active cities: nearly half the respondents exercised at least four times a week. Aucklanders were least active: 45 per cent exercised once a week or less.
People under 30 or over 50 were the most often active, and men's and women's habits were roughly the same, the survey by an independent research company found.
Common reasons for failing to exercise were time, expense and convenience.
Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokeswoman Robyn Toomath said the results were consistent with worldwide trends, showing time was the biggest factor in people not meeting the recommended activity levels.
People aged 30 to 50 were often under intense time constraints, especially if they had a family and both parents were working.
Dr Toomath said Auckland's long commute times, combined with high car use, could be behind its low physical activity levels.
Shorter travel times and people walking to public transport could account for Dunedin's and Wellington's higher exercise rates.
"The most reliable way to introduce exercise into people's lives is to introduce it as part of their activity of going to and from work."
Southern Cross chief executive Peter Tynan said the survey was worrying, as exercise could help save lives and tax dollars.
A Sport NZ study of more than 4000 Kiwis in 2007-08 found almost 50 per cent exercised five times a week or more, and only 12 per cent were active less than once a week.
But Kiwis may be aiming to combat their recent low activity levels, with the new year gym membership boom well under way.
Configure Express Wellington area manager Sarah Rutter-Smith said finer weather over Christmas might have brought it forward, as resolutions to get fit were often triggered by people getting outdoors.
"Maybe they've been out doing summer activities that they normally wouldn't do outside of work or even walking, and have really noticed how unfit they are, or have put on their bikini and decided they're not quite happy with how the bikini's looking."
PROFILE OF AN ENDORPHIN JUNKIE
Petone's Katie Brown loves nothing more than getting a good sweat up.
The 27-year-old often works out twice a day - she runs around Oriental Bay in her lunchtime and hits the gym in the evening. "It keeps me sane. I've also made loads of friends through my sports and it keeps me in really good shape."
The account manager is involved in three touch rugby teams and plays three games a week.On Sundays she heads to the yoga studio.
Physical activity has been part of her life since she was a child. "But when it really kicked off was when I started rowing - that really teaches you how to train hard."
For those who struggle to get off the couch, one of Ms Brown's tips is to grab some buddies to get fit with.
She does feel the odd unmotivated twinge before an early training session but it doesn't last long. "Once you're up and you've worked out, you never regret it."
- The Dominion Post
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