(July 2011) by Dr Stephen Barker

“Use It, or Lose It” is one of those old adages that comes in very handy. Whether it’s discussing loss of fitness with an overweight forty-something, or loss of balance with an unsteady seventy-something, there’s truth in those few words.

For many people the hardest time to keep up physical activity may be through the winter. Fewer daylight hours and wet weather are all very understandable excuses for failing to get outside and active. But if we don’t want to ‘Lose It’, then it’s important to resist the comforting lure of the couch and TV. Keeping active needn’t be hard. For some people it may mean leaving the car at home for short errands, playing actively with the kids, or for others it might be time to stop ignoring the dog, (or perhaps adopt a friend’s dog) and go walkies! There are often local classes for sports or fitness, including the popular Tai Chi sessions designed for older adults.

It’s a strange paradox that a sports-mad country like New Zealand should be seeing a steady increase in diseases such as diabetes. I suspect this is in part the fault of the huge industry that is Professional Sport. This industry relies on encouraging spectators, particularly through Sky TV, but not participators. Which may also leave some people feeling excluded because they don’t have the skill levels they see on the ‘Box’. Another artificial anxiety that affects our perception of sport is this strange need to have the latest hi-tech gear. Just take cycling for example – sure it’s a popular sport, but does everyone need the latest bike and all that lurid Lycra. Well no! You can ride any bike in any old clothing.

So ditch the Sky subscription, leave the car behind and reclaim the streets, parks and beaches. If everyone got out and about, it would make our communities safer too! For more information - www.sparc.org.nz & Push-Play.