It would be fair to say for most women, the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle is at the forefront of their minds.

But for all their good intentions, modern women would actually admit they could probably do with eating more greens, drinking less alcohol and running that extra kilometre on the treadmill.

A new research report released today shows that the need for women to focus on their health is much more immediate than first thought. Researchers have found most women in Australia are exercising less and not eating nearly enough vegetables.

Drawing data from one of the biggest studies ever conducted with Australian women – the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) – researchers from the University of Queensland and the University of Newcastle have compared women’s lifestyles with national guidelines for good health behaviours and screening.

The report, Adherence to health guidelines: Findings from the ALSWH, was launched today by the Honourable Tanya Plibersek, Minister for Health, at the new HMRI Building in Newcastle.

Facts from the report:

  • Fewer women than ever are meeting guidelines around healthy weight, with almost half of all the women surveyed considered overweight or obese.
  • Women aged between 34 and 39 years have gained the most weight since the survey was last conducted, with 45 per cent of the group now overweight or obese, up from 40 per cent in 2009.
  • This group also saw a decline in the percentage of women engaging in the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day, with only 44 per cent managing to complete half an hour of exercise on most days each week.
  • Contrary to current guidelines, most women consume alcohol during pregnancy, indicating a need for pregnant women to pay particular attention to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Most women are failing to meet dietary guidelines, particularly around consuming five servings of vegetables a day
  • The percentage of women consuming their recommended five serves of vegetables a day is very low. Women aged 35-39 (less than one per cent), women aged 61-66 (two per cent), and women aged 86-91 (eight per cent).

ALSWH Co-Director, University of Newcastle Professor Julie Byles, said the study revealed some positives, including that messages around quitting smoking were getting through.

“Smoking rates are down, although women living in rural areas or with a lower educational status are still more likely to continue to smoke,” Professor Byles said.

“Women are also heeding advice regarding alcohol consumption and health screenings including blood pressure and cholesterol checks,” she said.

Read our media release here.