How much physical activity is enough?
The Australian National Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week to benefit your health. There are many ways to achieve this – and it isn’t as hard, or as time consuming, as you think. According to the guidelines, three 10 minute activity sessions are just as effective as 30 minutes of continuous activity.
Types of activity
Moderate activity is movement that causes a small increase in your breathing and heart rate – but you should still be able to talk. A walk, mowing the lawn or even vacuuming are examples of moderate activity.
Vigorous activity, enough to make you ‘huff and puff’, is recommended to those who are able, and wish to achieve further health and fitness benefits. Aerobics, competitive sports and running are examples of vigorous activity.
Planning is essential. To increase movement, start by looking at daily activity as a long-term investment in your health. Write a plan and put it where you will see it every day, like on the mirror, fridge or in your car.
Points to remember
Be realistic. Start by inserting small amounts of activity into your schedule, then increase your time and pace gradually as you become fitter. This is essential to ensure you enjoy the activity and therefore keep doing it for longer.
Out and about
Set some short and long-term goals for yourself. A short-term goal might be to build up to a brisk 30 minute walk every day for a week. A longer term goal, something you work slowly towards, might be to participate in a fun run, go bushwalking or lose some weight. Reward yourself when you achieve your goals. An incentive may help you keep going on a day when you aren’t feeling motivated. Try setting goals using a pedometer. Aim for 1,000 extra steps every few days until you reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day.
No more excuses
Starting a physical activity plan is the easy part – sticking to it is more difficult. Here are a few ways of overcoming some common barriers.
I don’t have time
Schedule activity into your daily routine. Get up earlier or walk during your lunch break. If you can’t find half an hour then try for three 10 minute sessions. If you drive to work, park 10 minutes walk away.
I’m too tired
Physical activity actually helps to improve your energy levels and can help you sleep better as well. Start small and slowly build up as your energy levels increase.
I’m too old
It’s never too late to benefit from the positive health effects of physical activity. If you are worried, speak to your doctor or get a referral to an accredited exercise physiologist to find out what activities would best suit you.
I can’t afford it
The amount of free activities to improve your fitness is only restricted by your imagination. Walking, dancing to your favourite music, or gardening just a few examples of budget-friendly activities. Local parks can often have exercise equipment located around a walking track/route.
I’m not well
If you have a pre-existing condition it may be more difficult for you to become physically active; however it can be of great benefit to your overall health and wellbeing. Ask your health practitioner or get a referral to an accredited exercise physiologist to get advice on what activities would be of benefit to you.
What about my children?
Fitting all your daily tasks and looking after the children can often prevent you from getting active. Be creative with what to do with the kids. The obvious and best solution is to be active with the kids by playing active games with them at the park or in the garden. Alternatively, plan and participate in your physical activity sessions when your children are at school, day-care or kinder. Another option is to check out your local fitness/recreation centres which have facilities and staff that run child minding while you participate in your chosen activity.
Walking is one of the most popular and achievable forms of physical activity. “Surveys show that women prefer walking over all other activities and when they walk with friends they walk longer and report walking is more enjoyable,” says dietitian Cate Lombard. “Set a time and place to meet each week – rain, hail or shine – and make the effort to turn up. Group activities are more social and you can encourage each other to keep going.”
Content Updated December 9, 2009