From surviving to thriving, AIA Australia has unveiled comprehensive data showing the impact of small lifestyle changes on health and wellbeing in 2020.
There is no doubt the world we live in has dramatically changed. With many challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also seen some “silver linings” - small, positive changes we have made during this time in terms of our health and wellbeing. Many of us have been forced to re-evaluate our priorities – we are cooking more at home, finding time to be more active and spending more quality time with our families. This has led us to adapt and make changes to our daily routines – these changes impact how we live today and will hopefully be carried forward as we move from surviving to reviving.
According to the World Health Organization, people are at a higher risk of getting severe symptoms of COVID-19 if they are older (60+) or have a pre-existing non-communicable disease (NCD) such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or cancer. NCDs cause 90 percent of deaths in Australia and are known to be largely impacted by lifestyle factors such as insufficient activity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol.
With this evidence emerging, AIA’s purpose to champion Australians and New Zealanders to live Healthier, Longer and Better Lives is more paramount than ever. As part of its commitment to better understand the health of the nation, AIA Australia has undertaken extensive research looking at key factors and lifestyle behaviours that can influence this. The inaugural AIA Vitality Wellbeing Index and the AIA Vitality COVID-19 Insights report present a snapshot of Australia’s health and wellbeing in 2020 - highlighting the small lifestyle changes that Australians have made since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and how these changes are impacting our lives.
With gyms closing and limits on personal training meaning staying active during restrictions has been a challenge for many Australians - the AIA Vitality COVID-19 Insights report has revealed that in the month of April the number of AIA Vitality members completing at least 7,500 steps (or equivalent) has reduced by 25 percent.
On a positive note, device activity has increased by 23 percent over the same period, meaning that people have been embracing technology when it comes to staying active in the safety and comfort of their home, taking advantage of at-home workouts and virtual classes.
More importantly, data has also shown that Vitality members who engage in physical activity are 50 percent more likely to report improved mental wellbeing and decreased feelings of stress – this is extremely important, particularly in times of uncertainty when our basic needs are under threat and this impacts our overall health and wellbeing.
The AIA Vitality Wellbeing Index has revealed that of all the states and territories, the ACT is performing best when it comes to meeting daily physical activity guidelines. It was also found that Canberrans took out the top spot for participating in organised sport and having the most people who used a bicycle for transport.
According to Professor Ian Hickie from The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, an emphasis on physical activity is not only likely to have direct benefits in reducing depression levels but, very importantly, should minimise the increased risk of premature death or disability linked to cardiovascular diseases.
Factors such as job losses, self-isolation, and social distancing have had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of Australians during the early months of 2020.
Data from the AIA Vitality COVID-19 Insights report reveals that stress related to social life or lack of social contact has increased by 156 percent in April (the highest of all stress indicators) followed by an increase in stress related to managing the home and looking after children at 76 percent.
To help cope with troubling times and assist with transitioning to the “new normal”, AIA Vitality ambassador and health and performance expert Dr Jaime Lee advises Australians to practice “micro-recovery” techniques throughout the day to stay level-headed and reduce stress and anxiety.
Dr Jaime Lee recommends focusing on small behaviours to remain stable – keeping up daily routines, going for a walk to take a break, disconnecting from screens, taking time out to meditate and connecting regularly with family, friends and co-workers - these are all vital tools to maintain a sense of control and stay resilient.
The AIA Vitality COVID-19 Insights report has revealed that nutrition is a key health and wellbeing indicator that has seen positive changes since the start of 2020.
Data shows people are eating healthier and eating behaviours are changing with 20 percent more people being happy with their diets in April compared to January. There has also been a 32 percent decline in the number of people who are eating at least one meal per week from a restaurant or takeaway.
AIA Vitality Ambassador and practicing dietitian and nutritionist, Marika Day, says that one of the positives, for many and herself included, that we can take out of the last few months is that we are spending more time cooking at home and eating home-cooked meals. We are trying new recipes and expanding our horizons when it comes to meals which according to Marika is good for the body and soul.
When looking at the state of the nation’s health when it comes to nutrition, the AIA Vitality Wellbeing Index shows that VIC leads the nutrition category overall. However, those living in NSW rank the best in terms of meeting daily fruit consumption guidelines and Tasmanians come out on top when it comes to meeting their daily recommended vegetable targets despite drinking the most sugary drinks of all the states and territories.
Preventative activities such as health checks, advanced health screens and immunisations can improve both diagnosis of health conditions and recovery through early intervention.
The AIA Vitality Wellbeing Index has shown that South Australians ranked best overall when it came to preventative health which considers participation in bowel cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings.
Access to advanced health screenings is an area that Australians have faced challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions being put in place. The AIA Vitality COVID-19 Insights report has shown there was 40-50 percent drop in advanced screenings (mammograms, cervical screening tests and bowel cancer tests) completed by members in April.
When it comes to our health and wellbeing, the reality is that change is never an immediate transformation; it is a journey. The AIA Vitality program is about the little things – the small healthy choices made daily that can have a big impact on our wellbeing over time. Conducting research, such as the AIA Vitality Wellbeing Index and the AIA Vitality COVID-19 Insights report, is fundamental to AIA delivering on our promise of championing Australia and New Zealand to be the healthiest and most protected nations in the world. Through highlighting the positive small changes that every person has been making and discussing the broader impact AIA hopes to inspire Australians to understand the power of making healthier choices.
The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.
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AIA Vitality is a science-backed program that helps you learn more about your health,
offers ways to improve it and motivates you with rewards along the way.
offers ways to improve it and motivates you with rewards along the way.