I recently took our two youngest girls to see their grandparents in Brisbane.

Queensland is regarded as the Sunshine State and a place that inspires a life of living outside.

My wife tells people that I’m an exercise addict, and while in Australia I needed to find an alternative to my daily CrossFit habit.

Before leaving for Oz, I went online and worked out that there was a CrossFit Box (gym) close to where we were staying, but a casual visit would cost an arm and a leg. I decided to do one class during the week and then swim and run on the other days.

We were also staying in a hotel for a couple of nights, so the in-house gym would also be on the exercise list. Unfortunately the gym was smaller than an average toilet, so I was then looking for my fix outside.

As we went through the week, I started each day with a run along the waterfront, both in the coastal town of Redcliffe, but also down on the Gold Coast. I also managed a couple of swims, one in a 50 metre pool (something Hawke’s Bay doesn’t have) and the other in the surf on the Goldie.

While on the GC, I looked on with envy as surfers were getting their daily fix, something that I am in dire need of before my upcoming surfing trip of a lifetime to the Mentawai Islands.

Since Queensland is the sunshine state, you would expect many people to be out walking, cycling and doing other forms of exercise. The many parks along the golden sand beaches boast fitness equipment (similar to what’s now on Marine Parade) and personal trainers are busy pushing their daily fitness warriors.

Each morning at 6am people were out and about getting their daily exercise fix. However while out running I had two realisations … The first was on a Tuesday night as I was driving past a KFC store that was jammed packed with people queuing inside or in the drive thru.

I wondered whether this was a daily fix for some. When I returned to my parents’ place, I said I’d just driven past KFC and it was packed. Why I asked?

They quickly responded that it was ‘Special Deal Tuesday’. They knew this because it’s pumped continuously in the TV advert breaks and during the NRL rugby league. My next observation was that my nephew (aged 20) and my niece (aged 15) spent a lot of time on the couch drinking orange juice and eating crap food.

My nephew hardly exercises, while my niece plays rugby league, but also could spend more time on her fitness.

Now I’m not actually picking on them. It’s more that I’ve noticed more teenagers and those in their 20s not focusing on their health and wellbeing, instead being media attacked by the likes of KFC and Coca Cola.

It was also evident in the many shopping malls, which are stacked with fast food options, and very few healthy alternatives.

Back to KFC and the marketing ploys of fast food giants. For those that don’t watch rugby league, every try goes to the television ref to decide whether it’s a try or no try and the decision is then revealed to the TV audience and ground crowd along with KFC special deals.

Everyday and everywhere you go you now see fast food companies and soft drink companies preying on youth. For a laugh, visit www.csr.kfc.com.au

These companies are aligning themselves with sport, but showing no social responsibility for keeping kids in sport or healthy. They throw millions of dollars at sport, similar to tobacco companies in the 70s and 80s.

On top of this, sport organisations such as the NRL and AFL along with broadcasters are falling over themselves to get a larger share of the pie or chicken burger.

This isn’t just an Australian issue, this is actually a worldwide sports issue, with major health ramifications.

Most sports need financial support and unfortunately it’s the products that can cause significant health issues that are the ones more than likely to back sport.

So how do we get KFC out of the living room and children out onto a playing field?

I don’t have all the answers, but while there’s a lot of debate about sugar, the debate needs to be wider and be more about healthy food and better lifestyles.

As my children observed on my mother’s cigarette packet, there are horrible and scary pictures of what smoking can do.

Perhaps we need to start doing the same with sugar and fast food – with messages on all marketing materials about the impact of eating burgers, chips and pizza.

The fast food companies and fizzy drink manufacturers should also be promoting exercise on their marketing materials and ensuring that a portion of revenues should go into promoting active recreation.

The Queensland government is obviously well aware of the problem and has an awareness campaign directing people to a website to work out if your health and age match up. It then recommends a range of activities. See www.healthier.qld.gov.au

Back in Hawke’s Bay we are actually no different. And we are also falling well behind in many health measures, while we also have lower than average participation numbers in sport.

This is something Sport Hawke’s Bay in partnership with the region’s councils hopes to turn around.

We want to create a campaign that is fun and engaging – and not too demanding – so that people give it a go without losing interest. We need to form a habit, much like the fast food giants have created.

One of the things we will encounter is competing against the financial resources of the likes of KFC and getting our messages out to the community with high frequency. We will have to be much smarter to do so.

As chairman of Sport Hawke’s Bay, I’d love to hear your thoughts: active@sporthb.net.nz

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