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Olympic boost for couch potatoes?

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012

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Health experts are hoping that watching the Olympics will inspire couch potatoes to get off the couch and become more active.

But they are also warning people to take it easy or risk injury. Sports medicine doctor Hamish Osborne, of Otago University's Dunedin School of Medicine, said the Olympics would lead to more people doing exercise.

It was best to start small, and build exercise levels up to prevent injuries, he said.

People watching Olympic athletes tended to over-estimate the amount of exercise needed to get healthy.

"I've started people off with as little as five minutes walking a day."

An Australian study recently said that watching six hours of television a day could take five years off your life.

"So you could actually argue that watching the Olympics is bad for you."

According to ACC data, almost 26,500 New Zealanders were injured playing sport, and 108 died as a result of their injuries in 2007-08.

Around 13,000 ACC claims were made for injuries involving Olympic sports, at a cost of $140 million.

John Beaglehole, ACC general manager of insurance and prevention services, said events such as the Olympics were changing the way people participated in physical activity.

"Dubbed the 'spontaneous sports consumer', people are making more choices and embracing different types of physical activity to fit into their lifestyle and preference."

Injury Prevention Network director Joyce-Anne Raihania hoped the Olympics would inspire more people to start exercising. "But we think they should prepare before they leap into it."

Warming up and and down was also important.

Newly enthusiastic sportspeople should also consider joining a club to get both expert advice and camaraderie, she said.

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- The Dominion Post

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