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Fiji moved me

Active Voice
with Heidi Litchwark
Sport BOP CEO

During a holiday in Fiji, I was reminded how much fun people seem to have with a less sedentary lifestyle.

Of course, being on holiday in a warm climate, the swimming, snorkeling, water slides and beach walks were always going to lighten the mood more than a New Zealand winter.

Our own activity aside, I had a greater awareness of how much more active the employees in Fiji were, particularly because the work they were doing was a lot less technology based. There were people hand-cutting grass, walking messages, hand-washing dishes, and little to no TV.

It was a stark reminder that in more developed nations, we have reduced our day-to-day activity so much that it is easy to forget the amount of physical activity that used to be involved in everyday jobs.

While we cannot turn back time, we can be aware of and learn from our lack of physical activity – and make changes.

At a number of conferences in May this year, Dr Fiona Bull from the World Health Organisation presented research about what our sedentary lifestyles are doing to our health. She was very clear that in developed nations the lack of physical activity is a health risk of its own (in addition to its links with diabetes, heart disease and some mild mental health concerns). She challenged New Zealand to be one of few nations to do something meaningful in order to reduce this risk.

Dr Bull outlined some ways in which we can do this and one of the main opportunities she discussed was to design our cities and neighbourhoods for walking and cycling as much as driving. That means connecting cycle/walk ways, appropriate lighting, footpaths and using plants to make walking or cycling around the easy option, rather than for only the dedicated or determined.

Workplaces are often the setting where not much movement is required – and yet there are numerous chances to add small bits of physical activity into most days.

In Fiji, we can ‘walk an email', walk to get lunch, have a standing desk, take the stairs or have a walking meeting. The noticeable impact of this was the happiness and laughter movement brought to the day.

So, my motivation this month is to use a pedometer and track the number of steps I take in a day. It's amazing how much walking about while taking a phone call, delivering a message rather than sending an email and conducting a walking meeting have added to my steps.

September is the perfect time to try this as the days get longer and warmer – we can almost imagine we're in Fiji. Almost.

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