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Page updated: 03 May 2012

The Physical Activity Taskforce has ceased operation and this website is no longer updated.

Updated: 03 May 2012

Evidence Supporting the Benefits of Physical Activity

Evidence Base

Research presented over the past ten years increasingly shows that physical inactivity is a major public health issue throughout the western world, including Australia.


The Big Picture

The World Health Organisation[1] identified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (6% of deaths globally).  In its 2010 report on global recommendations for physical activity for health, it urges Member States to implement national guidelines on physical activity and encourages them to develop and put into practice policies and interventions that:

  • develop and implement national guidelines on physical activity for health;
  • introduce transport policies that promote active and safe methods of travelling to and from schools and workplaces, such as walking or cycling; and,
  • ensure that physical environments support safe active commuting, and create space for recreational activity.


Physical Activity Links to the Built Environment

Increasingly, research[2] shows that the built environment impacts in some way on our health and wellbeing, in particular, active lifestyle choices. The planning and design of neighbourhoods - houses, shops, schools, parks, roads, recreational and community facilities - can positively influence the way we behave.

Built Environment Research & Reference List

Built Environment Research & Reference List

The Physical Activity Taskforce Built Environment Advisory Committee collated a list of current research and reference material relating to the built environment and its impact on healthy and active lifestyles.

Physical Activity Links to Mental Health

Accumulating evidence[3] suggests that regular physical activity is effective in preventing and managing depression as well as other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  However, a significant majority of Australians are not active enough for good health including children and young people.


How Active are Western Australians?

The Taskforce commissioned two surveys, the Western Australian Child and Adolescent Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (CAPANS) and the WA Adult Physical Activity Survey that considers the physical activity levels of Western Australians. 

Findings of the WA Physical Activity Adult Survey

In WA, over 40% of adults in 2006 were not active enough for good health. 

The preliminary findings from the 2009 WA Adult Physical Activity Survey[4] indicate concerning results:

  • 9% decline in people walking for recreation since 1999
  • 10% decline in people walking for transport since 2006
  • only half of physically-active adults walked more than 10 minutes for recreation
  • one in five walked more than 10 minutes for transport in the previous week.

Compared with respondents from the Perth metropolitan area, those in the South West were 19% more likely, those in the Kimberley/Pilbara 34% more likely and those in the Midwest/Goldfields 35% more likely to be inactive.

There is also a particular concern with levels of overweight and obesity.  Since 1999, the number of Western Australian adults above a healthy weight has increased by 11%.  Although high, people living in the Perth metropolitan area had a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity (53%) compared with respondents in other regions (South West 65%, Kimberley/Pilbara 62%, Midwest/Goldfields 63%).

Interestingly, those respondents who were ‘insufficiently active’ and ‘inactive’ rated their local neighbourhoods less positively with the use of streets and footpaths lower in 2009 than in all previous survey years. 

Findings of the Child and Adolescent Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (CAPANS)

Findings from the 2008 CAPANS[5] which gathers information on physical activity participation, dietary intake and body measurements also raise concerns. The first CAPANS was conducted in 2003.

In 2008, Edith Cowan University was contracted to track trends and identify emerging issues. 

These trends identified that less than half of the school students interviewed reported undertaking the recommended minimum 60 minutes of physical activity daily for good health.  Participation was lowest amongst secondary school girls with only 10% meeting the national guideline. 

Key findings from the 2008 survey include:

  • The percentage of participants meeting the daily physical activity guidelines (60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day) are:
    41% primary boys and 27% primary girls
    38% secondary boys and 10% secondary girls.
  • Almost all respondents reported participating in sport/exercise/dance, active play and school sport or PE over the 7 days prior to survey.
  • The numbers of students reporting at least one session of active transport (i.e. walking or cycling) in the seven days prior to the survey included:
    46.5% of primary school boys and 43.1% of primary school girls
    50.9% of secondary schoolboys and 43.2% of secondary school girls.


Related Resources


Reference List

[1] Global health risks: mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009.

[2] Giles-Corti B, Kelty S, Zubrick S and Villanueva K, How important is the built environment?, Centre for the Built Environment and Health, UWA, Centre for Developmental Health, Curtin University and Telethon Institute, 2009.

[3] National Heart Foundation of Australia, Physical Activity and Depression, 2007,

[4] Saarloos D, Nathan A, Almeida O, Giles-Corti B (2008), The Baby Boomers and Beyond Report: Physical Activity Levels of Older Western Australian 2006, Perth, Western Australian Government.

[5] Martin K, Rosenberg M, Miller M, French S, McCormack G, Bull F, Giles-Corti B, Pratt, S.  Move and Munch Final Report.  Trends in physical activity, nutrition and body size in Western Australian children and adolescents: the Child and Adolescent Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (CAPANS) 2008.