Health campaigns lost on the poor

June 11th, 2008 - 11:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 11 (IANS) Health campaigns prompting people to exercise are missing the point, especially when it comes to the poor, according to a study. The study, by researchers at Queensland University of Technology, sought responses from people of lower socio-economic backgrounds to gauge their attitude to, and level of, physical activity.

The study found these people felt “patronised” and overwhelmed by continual messages from advertisers and the government to get active, and that, while most saw exercise as a good thing, many saw serious exercise, like going to the gym, as a dream.

Exercise needs to be perceived as something not just for the rich and the thin, and options need to be local, affordable, safe, and family friendly, said Julie-Anne Carroll, who led the study.

“I looked at perceptions and practices around physical activity, and then into the subjects’ backgrounds to see if there was a link between their past experiences and their attitudes towards physical activity now,” she said.

“A lot of these people had described very tough childhoods in very rough neighbourhoods, and exercise was low on their priority list, so when they started to think about health and exercise as young adults, they felt it was too late to start,” she said.

For people from disadvantaged backgrounds, more education is not the answer - what is needed is intervention at grassroots level to make exercise appear achievable, accessible, affordable and less intimidating, the study said.

Many participants appeared enthusiastic about community yoga or aerobics classes, walking groups and games with people they have good relationships with. But they saw this as quite different from the images they were used to, of a lycra-clad model running on a gym machine, the study noted.

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