New strategy to prevent obesity

Boosting levels of physical activity is seen as one of the key health challenges for the 21st century, both within Australia and globally. Chronic diseases are responsible for 68 per cent of all deaths worldwide yet changing this could be as simple as changing human behaviour.

Physical inactivity is among the leading preventable causes of chronic diseases, which include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer. Yet the health of the Australian population is being influenced by the Increasing levels of physical inactivity combined with other unhealthy patterns.

Research shows that regular physical activity is strongly linked to chronic disease prevention and overall optimal health and well-being. Historically, most of the evidence for physical activity and health has been based on studies which examine the health benefits of engaging in regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, cycling and sporting-related activities.

'My interest in muscle-strengthening and public health was initially conceived as an early career researcher.' Dr Jason Bennie

More recently, research has shown that regular muscle-strengthening exercise, such as body weight exercises and using weight machines, is important for optimal health and well-being.

Muscle-strengthening exercise has been shown to be more beneficial than aerobic physical activity on key health conditions such as maintenance of muscle mass/strength, cognitive function and functional status.

Over the past five years, Dr Bennie’s research has provided the first studies to show that more than 85 per cent of Australian adults do not meet the muscle-strengthening exercise guidelines which require this kind of training more than twice a week.

His research program has since extended to working on muscle-strengthening exercise data from around the world, including leading publications from the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany and South Korea.

In 2020, Dr Bennie was lead author on a publication in the journal Obesity. Using data from 1.7 million US adults, this study provided the first evidence that muscle-strengthening exercise is likely to be beneficial for obesity prevention. This publication received significant media attention, and was covered in the New York Times, Medscape and the Sydney Morning Herald.

I recognised that despite there being global and national physical activity guidelines, little was known about muscle-strengthening exercise within the context of public health.
Dr Jason Bennie

Dr Bennie will now lead research that attempts to answer the many currently unanswered questions within the field of muscle-strengthening exercise and public health including:

  • Health: What is the optimal dose of muscle-strengthening exercise for health?
  • Measurement: How to best assess muscle-strengthening exercise in health surveillance?
  • Determinants: What are the key influences on muscle-strengthening exercise?
  • Translation: How to scale up muscle-strengthening exercise to the population-level?

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