No matter your age, there are incredible benefits to incorporating physical activity into your day. Not only does it make us feel great physically, but it is exceptionally important for mental wellbeing and our long-term health.
Physical activity = moving your body
Physical activity doesn’t only refer to sport and exercise – it’s about moving your body! This could be house cleaning, gardening, walking the dog, and playing with your children. Most Australians are not physically active enough, which can put us at increased risk of:
- cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary heart disease)
- type II diabetes
- anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses
- musculoskeletal diseases (arthritis, osteoporosis)
- cancers (lung, colorectal, gynaecological, breast)
- and more.
In fact, physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality, according to the World Health Organisation.
How much exercise do I need?
Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for adults (18-64 years) are as follows.
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 – 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting. Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
Half of all Australian adults do not meet these guidelines.
Note: There are also guidelines for children (5-12 years), young people (13-17 years), older people (64+ years), and young and older people with disability. You can find them on the Department of Health website.
How can I increase my physical activity?
Building activity into your day
This might look a little daunting, especially if you’re currently not engaged in much physical activity. However it’s important to remember that doing any physical activity is better than doing none. Start with something you enjoy, or incorporate physical activity into your routine with little adjustments like:
- use stairs instead of the lift or escalator
- get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way
- park a little further away than normal and walk
- walk or cycle for short trips
Being active at work
Many of us have sedentary jobs (I’m one of them!) and it can be hard to incorporate activity into our work days. Here are a few tips for getting more physical activity at work:
- leave your desk at lunch and enjoy a short walk outside
- organise walking meetings
- set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up, walk around, or stretch
Reducing sedentary behaviour
Our hobbies and lifestyle can contribute to our lack of physical activity. Making small adjustments can have a big impact. Why not try to:
- walk around when talking on your mobile phone
- stand on public transport
- stretch and move while watching television
- alternate between standing and sitting while reading
- get out in the garden
- present your TV timer or phone alarm to remind you to get up and walk about
Participate in sport and exercise
Participating in team sports and individual exercise is a fantastic way to improve your health and wellness. You don’t need to overdo it! A general measure of moderate activity is aerobic activity that you can maintain for 30-60mins while holding a conversation. Try and do this for half an hour most days of the week and you’ll be on your way to better health now and down the track.
Eat a balanced and varied diet
If you’re going to do activity, you’ll need fuel. The best fuel for your body is a balanced diet with foods from the five food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and meat alternatives, and dairy/daily alternatives).
Eating well and getting regular physical activity is the ‘magic pill’ the world keeps waiting for – not ‘eliminate this food’ or ‘take this special supplement’. Enjoy real food, move your body, and feel the difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.
Always speak with your doctor or health professional if you are:
- new to physical activity and exercise
- have a health problem
- concerned about your safety
That’s enough sitting and typing for me, I’m off for a walk!
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Insufficient Physical Activity
- Department of Health: Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines
- Department of Health: Tips and Ideas for Adults
- World Health Organisation: Physical Activity