Kiwis among laziest in world: study

05:38, Jul 19 2012
GET ACTIVE: As a nation we're not that fit.

New Zealand is among the laziest countries in the world, with nearly 50 per cent of the population not active enough, according to a new study.

Research published today in the medical journal The Lancet rated physical inactivity by country, and placed New Zealand 27th on a list of 122 countries (number 1, Malta, being the most inactive and 122, Bangladesh, the most active).

The study defined inactivity as not doing five 30-minutes sessions of moderate activity, three 20-minutes sessions of vigorous activity, or 600 metabolic equivalent minutes per week.

It showed more Kiwi women were inactive compared to men - 50.4 and 45 per cent respectively. Australia did better than New Zealand, rating 52nd with 37.9 per cent.

Auckland University associate professor, Ralph Maddison, who studies physical activity, wasn't surprised by the figures.

"I think the need to be physical active every day has diminished due to multiple factors," he said.

"Our environment has changed in terms of where we live. We drive a lot more, people spend more time in leisure-based activities, like watching television, and we also have more sedentary jobs."

Earlier national studies showed 30 per cent of Kiwis didn't meet physical activities guidelines, Maddison said. Globally that number was 17 per cent.

He said inactivity, combined with unhealthy eating, could lead to obesity.

New Zealand was the world's third-fattest nation, with more than a quarter of the population classed as obese.

"The more you eat and the less you do, you are going to retain more energy and put on weight," Maddison said.

"But a huge focus of overweight and obesity is food consumption. Though energy balance is a balance, so one has to not only consume the right amount of energy, but also expand that."

He could not say whether New Zealand would see the number of inactive people go up or down in the future.

"I don't know the answer," Maddison said.

"We need to make our environment more conducive to be physically active, and that's not just exercising. It means doing something everyday, like walking to the supermarket.

"We do live in a society where a lot of people exercise, but there are also a lot of people who don't."

He said the Government had several initiatives to promote activity in the past, but they were no longer available.

"I think we need initiatives in New Zealand that focus on population changes in physical activity, if those numbers are going to improve," he said.

Malta was crowned the laziest country, with 71.9 per cent of adults inactive, followed by Swaziland with 69 per cent and Saudi Arabia 68.8 per cent.

Bangladesh, with only 4.7 per cent of the country inactive, was followed by Mozambique, Comoros, Benin and Mongolia.

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