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Why is Canberra Australia’s fittest city?

By Lisa Martin - 26 February 2015 17

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According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data, almost three out of four Canberra residents participate in sport or some sort of physical activity – the highest rate out of anywhere in Australia.

It is pretty easy to see that Canberra is an active city. Everyone I know plays some sort of sport or regularly goes to the gym. There are always fitness enthusiasts running or cycling around Lake Burley Griffin, people in their gym gear transiting through Civic, and Mt Ainslie is always teeming with people after work. I’ve met quite a few people who do mountain biking, or enjoy hiking, and team sports seem popular and there’s a good variety throughout the capital.

When I first moved to Canberra, I’d only been to a gym a handful of times. But when I noticed that everyone around me was really into getting fit, I was motivated me to get out there and improve my fitness.

Unfortunately I injured myself shortly after I reached my goal but this lead me to discover the benefits of weights and I joined a gym. I’m happy to report I’m still going to this gym to this day!

I do wonder why Canberra is Australia’s fittest city. In general I’d say we have a lot of sunny days (although this summer has been a bit disappointing) so it encourages you to get outside even if it’s a bit fresh.

It’s also a great way to socialise and meet people if you’re new to town which a lot of people are. Team sports would be one highly effective way to meet like-minded people.

I guess the high rate of participation may also be attributed to the fact that we have a lot of highly educated people in Canberra on good wages who can afford gym memberships or take part in other activities which tend to be on the expensive side such as yoga, pilates, boxing and personal training sessions. I constantly see my email filled with offers for activities that aren’t your traditional fitness activities such as pole dancing classes, barre and aerial yoga.

Other cities such as Brisbane and Sydney have better weather than us in terms of a more level temperature and not so much the extremes that Canberra experiences, and I would imagine a greater choice in fitness offerings,so it does surprise me a little that Canberra outranks them to be Australia’s fittest city.

It’s good to see most of the fitness trends have made their way out to Canberra. I’m curious how many people have moved from other cities to Canberra to start up a business at one of the newer fitness activities to fill a niche – or to be an instructor. It raises the question if Canberra has become a good place to start up these types of businesses due to less competition?

What is your fitness activity of choice?

What’s Your opinion?


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17 Responses to
Why is Canberra Australia’s fittest city?
John Moulis 6:44 pm 05 Mar 15

RDS said :

I went up to Burleigh heads and despite being fit and being very happy with my body they made me feel self conscious 🙂

Everyone there had perfect tans, perfect bodies and seemed very impressive running up and down the beach or up the forest trail.

The fittest areas of Australia are Canberra, Bondi Beach and the Gold Coast. Everywhere else is very unhealthy. I saw this when I went up to Taree/Forster recently. Nearly everybody there was smoking and grossly obese. I only saw one bodybuilder there and he was a tourist. Even the surf lifesavers looked like they were wearing kegs. When you go to Woden Plaza each day and see young bodybuilders and sporting types all the time you take it for granted everywhere is like that.

RDS 4:14 pm 05 Mar 15

By the way ‘trim and thin’ does not mean always mean ‘fit’

RDS 4:13 pm 05 Mar 15

That’s surprising to me. I do not see evidence of it.

I went up to Burleigh heads and despite being fit and being very happy with my body they made me feel self conscious 🙂

Everyone there had perfect tans, perfect bodies and seemed very impressive running up and down the beach or up the forest trail.

You don’t mind people wearing cutaway shorts there 🙂

All the fit people must hide out in gyms and in their cross fit cult gatherings.

tooltime 8:25 am 04 Mar 15

I looked into buying an Anytime Fitness franchise here in Canberra when they hit the market:

http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/growing/secrets-of-a-worldclass-gym-20130625-2otrn.html

I hesitated due to the 5 year overhaul/ renovation in the franchise agreement, and the 6? or 8? franchises they had were snapped up in a week – and now I’m kicking myself as I exercise at the site I wanted, that’s being managed successfully.

I was attracted to the low overhead model and Canberra’s demographics as an educated, high income population with a passion for healthy activity, whatever form it took. And for this latter market in particular, they won’t give up their gym membership as it is part of their core being. In industry speak, they are “sticky”. Also, have you noticed the trampolining places popping up everywhere now? Once you did this in your own backyard, now it makes for a great kids ( and adults) function venue.

Canberra’s progressive public health and urban planning policies are the envy of many cities worldwide. The easily accessible abundant green space, with plenty of pools, cycling network separate from vehicle traffic, well kept ovals and a healthy sports club scene, limit the barriers to participation in exercise and recreational activities….and that’s what works to keep populations healthy, (along with avoiding social isolation). That’s in addition to a healthy adventure sports scene, rowing, bushwalking, mtn biking and snow sports and the coast are right there on our doorstep. We are totally spoilt for choice here. Personally, I’d love to see a whitewater facility like Penriths Olympic Venue put in somewhere near the lake. It’s one of the few things that we don’t have reliable, year round access to.

Blen_Carmichael 9:12 am 28 Feb 15

pink little birdie said :

Agree if you go on BMI, its easy to be labelled obese and also be fit and healthy. I fit into that category on a marginal overweight/obese. But I work out 5 days a week and am fit, I do many 10-20km bushwalks and do the odd obstacle course. I’d like to weigh less, but its a struggle.

I did read once that 30% of people in the healthy weight range are unfit and around 30% of people in the overweight range are fit. We have this idea in our head that if someone is normal or skinny that they are a healthy person and it just isn’t the case.

I’m overweight and yet I ride to work if the weather is fine about 3 times a week without breaking a sweat either way and it isn’t flat on the way home.
It’s easy to be active, fit and flabby.

I know what you mean, brother. As I say, my Irish ancestors didn’t survive the Potato Famine through having a fast metabolism.

crackerpants 12:47 pm 27 Feb 15

Alexandra Craig said :

I saw this story on television the other day and it puzzled me because last year we were all told that 63 per cent of Canberrans are overweight or obese. And then the ABS says we’re the fittest city. It doesn’t really make sense. I know you can still be fit while overweight, but not obese. I think the ABS probably should have said ‘most active city’ as opposed to ‘fittest’, because if we were all that fit, more than half of us wouldn’t be obese.

“Fittest” is a comparative statement, not an absolute. So woke there is certainly overlap between “fit” and “iiverweight” groups, saying we are “fittest” just means people in other cities are simply “less fit”. Or less active, whichever. Our rate of overweight/obesity might sound shocking, but bear in mind that rates in other cities are higher. So it makes sense that the city with the lowest rate of overweight/obesity also has the highest rates of participation in fitness activities.

Rollersk8r 9:48 am 27 Feb 15

pink little birdie said :

I’m overweight and yet I ride to work if the weather is fine about 3 times a week without breaking a sweat either way and it isn’t flat on the way home.
It’s easy to be active, fit and flabby.

I’d argue that being fit, active and healthy are 3 different things. You can be all 3 at once but it’s unlikely if you’re overweight. For many years I thought I was extremely active and fitter than most – but then lost over 20kgs by cutting out cr*p.

Evilomlap 4:26 pm 26 Feb 15

Solidarity said :

You can also be like me, trim and thin and don’t participate in any exercise.

It’s all about food, not exercise.

This is spot on. When it comes to weight loss or gain it’s 80 per cent diet, 20 per cent exercise. In my experience training now for 15 years most people flip it the other way around and do *way* more cardio than they actually need to to either maintain or lose weight. Caloric deficit vs caloric surplus, I can’t tell people that enough.

To answer the OP’s question though, I am a boxer so my training includes weights sessions and heavy bag drills and a lot of resistance training. The only additional cardio I do is running, and it’s endurance rather than any kind of extreme crossfit fad nonsense. In five years of serious weight training I have put on 15kg and *none* of it has gone to my waistline. I am living proof it’s diet that is crucial and it’s the one thing I see way too many people getting wrong.

And to veer back to the topic, I agree that Canberra’s size means it’s a little misleading to compare our stats with cities that are much larger. It doesn’t create a meaningful comparison. It’s like saying Canberra drivers are the worst in Australia. I think there’s just less good drivers here to balance that out 😉

Solidarity 1:02 pm 26 Feb 15

You can also be like me, trim and thin and don’t participate in any exercise.

It’s all about food, not exercise.

pink little birdie 10:21 am 26 Feb 15

watto23 said :

Bennop said :

Alexandra Craig said :

I saw this story on television the other day and it puzzled me because last year we were all told that 63 per cent of Canberrans are overweight or obese. And then the ABS says we’re the fittest city. It doesn’t really make sense. I know you can still be fit while overweight, but not obese. I think the ABS probably should have said ‘most active city’ as opposed to ‘fittest’, because if we were all that fit, more than half of us wouldn’t be obese.

You’d be suprised how fit you can be whilst being obese. The two indicators are not mutually exclusive at all. Correlated, but not exlusive.

Agree if you go on BMI, its easy to be labelled obese and also be fit and healthy. I fit into that category on a marginal overweight/obese. But I work out 5 days a week and am fit, I do many 10-20km bushwalks and do the odd obstacle course. I’d like to weigh less, but its a struggle.

I did read once that 30% of people in the healthy weight range are unfit and around 30% of people in the overweight range are fit. We have this idea in our head that if someone is normal or skinny that they are a healthy person and it just isn’t the case.

I’m overweight and yet I ride to work if the weather is fine about 3 times a week without breaking a sweat either way and it isn’t flat on the way home.
It’s easy to be active, fit and flabby.

Rollersk8r 9:53 am 26 Feb 15

I’m sure there are 100 different factors – but easy access to facilities would be a big one. Recently had friends staying from Atlanta – and they commented there’s simply nothing like Canberra’s network of bike paths over there – although plenty of big cities are just starting to convert old railway lines into pedestrian networks.

Bit of a tangent – but Canberra’s small size generally makes us look very good or very bad statistically, just in Australia. The one that annoys me is “biggest carbon footprint”. I argue there’s not much we can do about that one – we generally need both cooling in summer and heating in winter, the decentralised design of Canberra means public transport is not very efficient (or popular) – and we’re quite fortunate to be able to drive everywhere without traffic worries. Despite having the largest footprint we’ve very environmentally minded – excellent rates of recycling, highest rates of cycling to work and every second house has solar panels… We can’t win.

watto23 9:34 am 26 Feb 15

Bennop said :

Alexandra Craig said :

I saw this story on television the other day and it puzzled me because last year we were all told that 63 per cent of Canberrans are overweight or obese. And then the ABS says we’re the fittest city. It doesn’t really make sense. I know you can still be fit while overweight, but not obese. I think the ABS probably should have said ‘most active city’ as opposed to ‘fittest’, because if we were all that fit, more than half of us wouldn’t be obese.

You’d be suprised how fit you can be whilst being obese. The two indicators are not mutually exclusive at all. Correlated, but not exlusive.

Agree if you go on BMI, its easy to be labelled obese and also be fit and healthy. I fit into that category on a marginal overweight/obese. But I work out 5 days a week and am fit, I do many 10-20km bushwalks and do the odd obstacle course. I’d like to weigh less, but its a struggle.

I did read once that 30% of people in the healthy weight range are unfit and around 30% of people in the overweight range are fit. We have this idea in our head that if someone is normal or skinny that they are a healthy person and it just isn’t the case.

Milly Withers 9:33 am 26 Feb 15

We’re so lucky to have lots of bushland, open spaces and places to exercise, so it makes sense that we’re one of the most active cities in Australia. There’s really no excuse not to get outside when most Canberrans live within walking distance of a fire trail, oval or park.

I wish we looked a bit more like it though! Too many good places to eat in Canberra and a largely sedentary workforce might have something to do with it…

Bennop 9:11 am 26 Feb 15

Alexandra Craig said :

I saw this story on television the other day and it puzzled me because last year we were all told that 63 per cent of Canberrans are overweight or obese. And then the ABS says we’re the fittest city. It doesn’t really make sense. I know you can still be fit while overweight, but not obese. I think the ABS probably should have said ‘most active city’ as opposed to ‘fittest’, because if we were all that fit, more than half of us wouldn’t be obese.

You’d be suprised how fit you can be whilst being obese. The two indicators are not mutually exclusive at all. Correlated, but not exlusive.

Alexandra Craig 8:39 am 26 Feb 15

I saw this story on television the other day and it puzzled me because last year we were all told that 63 per cent of Canberrans are overweight or obese. And then the ABS says we’re the fittest city. It doesn’t really make sense. I know you can still be fit while overweight, but not obese. I think the ABS probably should have said ‘most active city’ as opposed to ‘fittest’, because if we were all that fit, more than half of us wouldn’t be obese.

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