Australia hits new obesity levels. Can we blame cars?

“She’ll be right mate!”

The often used phrase by many Australian’s when things look a bit grim.

Sadly, Australia currently sits high and mighty with record credit card debt, astounding obesity rates and car sales at an all time high.  The most concerning of these issues for me is that in the 2011-12 financial year over 980,000 new cars were sold in Australia. Not far off the one million mark.  And for a country who’s population sits at a lowly 22,620,600 it is of great concern that so many cars are hitting the roads in this country each and every year. The biggest long term threat from increasing car sales is pollution in our skies and our personal well being through reduced fitness levels.

A recent report found China and India share five of the worlds ten most polluted regions which makes for scary reading if you live in either of those countries.  The biggest impact on pollution levels over the past two decades has been a larger number of cars on the roads in both countries.  On Monday it was revealed that Beijing residents have been advised to remain indoors due to dangerously high levels of pollution that has left the sun hidden by smog.  Scientists and researchers believe many of China’s pollution problems stems from the over use of cars on the roads in a country that was once dominate by bicycles.

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In Australia for every 1,000 people there are 730 who own a car according to statistics from 2011.  Now, for a country commonly known for its grand weather it is somewhat astounding that cars play such a major role in our life.  It also begs the question that perhaps as a society we have become too reliant on cars to move us around? 

Higher usage of motor vehicles has been linked to increases in obesity along with stress arising from debt and sleep deprivation.  It makes for a nasty little cocktail that for many will signal greater health problems later in life. So why are we so focussed on driving from point A to point B and everywhere in-between?

This July I will be turning 36 years old. I’ve never held a license and never sat behind the wheel of a car.  I would suggest 90% of my friends own and drive cars on a daily basis.  They often argue that they “need” a car to survive.  Or is it a case of our societies “need” be be lazy and more dependant on cars?  I personally don’t understand why we feel the urge to drive anywhere and everywhere.

Running, cycling and even walking appear nothing but a chore for most Australian’s.  It concerns me to see how poorly this country will be in fifty years from now if we don’t make these “chores” more enjoyable.  We could start today by leaving the keys at home and walking or running to work, perhaps even riding a bike instead of sitting in peek hour traffic.

Many of you will look for an argument to defend driving and put forward the “Each to their own” slant.  However, what will your point of view be like when your husband or wife drops dead from a heart attack?  Would you then be wishing they had left the car at home more often in order to look after not only themselves but taking more care of our precious environment too?  We only have one crack at life.  Let’s live a more healthy lifestyle and watch our waist lines and environment reap the rewards.

Food for thought ey?

The perfect start would be to abandon cars for the small trips to the shops, park, gym or cinema and start leading a healthy lifestyle again.  After all, do we really want to be living in the conditions recently reported in Beijing as we get older?

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