Many Australian adults aren’t active enough to get health benefits. Are you one of them?
How much activity to aim for
We support Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. They recommend for adults:
- Any physical activity is better than none. It’s fine to start with a little, and build up.
- Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
- Aim to accumulate 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity each week.
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
An easy way to achieve this is to:
- Do 30-45 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (like brisk walking) most days of the week. You can build up activity in shorter bouts, like in three 10-minute walks.
- Do muscle-toning activities twice a week. This could be body weight exercises (e.g. push-ups, squats or lunges), tasks involving lifting, carrying or digging (e.g. gardening or carrying shopping), or weights or other resistance training (e.g. a gym based weight training program).
This is the minimum you need for health benefits. Longer times and more days of the week are even better.
No matter how active you are, it’s also important to sit less.
For recommendations about children’s activity see Active families.
What’s ‘moderate intensity’ and ‘vigorous intensity’ physical activity’?
Physical activity means any activity that gets your body moving, and makes your breathing harder and heart beat faster.
- Moderate-intensity activities make you breathe harder, but you can still talk while you’re doing the activity (e.g. brisk walking, dancing, golf, social tennis, or household jobs like washing windows).
- Vigorous-intensity activities make you huff and puff and you can’t talk as easily during them (e.g. jogging, aerobics, many organised sports).
Why be active
Being physically inactive is one of the risk factors for heart disease. ‘Inactive’ means not getting the amount of activity recommended by the Australian guidelines.
Regular physical activity makes you less likely to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. It also helps control other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight.
There are plenty of other benefits too. If you get regular physical activity, it’s likely you will live longer, feel more energetic, have stronger bones and muscles, and feel happier and more relaxed.
And if you have heart disease, physical activity is important to help you manage it.
Physical inactivity costs the economy $13. 8 billion per year.
Check with your doctor before you start
If your doctor has said you have heart problems or you think you might have heart disease, it’s really important to check with your doctor before you start an activity program. Read about being active when you have a heart condition.
You should also talk to your doctor if:
- you’re a man over 35 or a woman over 45
- you’re pregnant
- physical activity causes chest pain
- you often faint or have severe dizzy spells
- moderate-intensity activity makes you very breathless
- you smoke, are overweight, or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- your heart beats too fast or irregularly.
Set yourself up to succeed
- Choose activities you enjoy – that way, you will be more likely to keep doing them.
- Vary the type of activity you do so that you don’t become bored with the one thing.
- Set yourself small, realistic goals for your activity. For example, saying something like, “Tomorrow I will start with a 10-minute walk to buy my lunch”.
- Set aside certain times of the day, or one period that suits you to be active -you are more likely to be committed if you schedule it into your routine.
- Be active with friends, family, your partner or join a group. This way you can motivate and encourage one another. The social support you may gain from being active with others can also improve your health.
Start with walking
Walking is a great way to get into being active. It’s fun, free and you don’t need any special equipment!
Download: Am I active enough? (PDF)
Download: Be active everyday (PDF)
Tips and how-tos: Australia's physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines