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How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?
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How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

What’s the one thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing health problems including cardiovascular disease (heart conditions, including diseased and damaged blood vessels, and blood clots and blockages), type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, muscle and joint problems, some cancers, a decline in memory and other mental skills and unhealthy weight gain? 

The answer is exercise. 

Australian Government figures show that 56% of Australian adults either don't do any exercise or don’t do enough (Australian Institute Of Health and Welfare).  


We all know there can be barriers in the way of being active, including: 
  • Being too busy and not having time  
  • Not having access to appropriate spaces or facilities to exercise 
  • Experiencing tiredness or lack of motivation 
  • Costs, including gym fees and buying equipment 
  • Not enjoying exercise or physical activities, such as going to the gym, running or playing sports 
  • Perceived lack of results from exercise 
  • Feeling discomfort when active, such as muscle or joint pain 

Can you overcome these barriers? 

Below are some quick tips on beating some hurdles in the way of getting more active. 

Lack of time 

We all live busy lives, juggling commitments, including work, family, study, friends, and more. Finding the time to be active can be a challenge. To find space in your day, consider: 
  • Keeping track of your time commitments for a few weeks. Over a month or so, you will start to see when you have gaps in your schedule. Start by finding just 30 minutes a day when you can do some quick, easy fitness activities like walking, completing a YouTube workout or even climbing up and down the stairs in your home 
  • Add active time to your daily routine; it’s easier than it sounds. You can start by leaving home a little earlier in the morning to walk to the next public transport stop. Or, at work, go for a walking meeting or take the stairs instead of the lift. 
No motivation 

Sometimes a lack of motivation can be linked to a belief that you don’t have time to exercise (see above). You may not usually enjoy exercising, or you might believe you’re not making progress. The seasons also impact how much time we spend outdoors, whether we are too hot or cold to get active, and rain, wind or storms can keep us inside. Once you start exercising, it’s easier to keep going. But, if you aren’t feeling up to getting started, these ideas can help: 
  • Lock in a specific time in your day. Planning and making time to exercise, such as walking the dog, going for a bike ride, running or walking, can help keep you motivated. Start small and schedule just two or three short sessions each week; once you are comfortable with this level of exercise, you can increase the number of sessions and time you spend, or you can change up your activities to something more challenging, like going to the gym, playing a team sport or working up to walking, running or cycling longer distances   
  • A great way to stay motivated is to join with friends or family members who want to get moving for better heart health. An easy, fun and friendly way to do this is to join your local Heart Foundation Walking group
Costs 

Attending a gym or purchasing exercise equipment can be costly. But there are many free and low-cost ways to get active, helping to ensure that exercising your way to a healthier heart can be accessible to everyone: 
  • Discover your local parks and other outdoor spaces; many have purpose-built exercise equipment as part of their facilities, or you might enjoy walking and spending more time in greener spaces. 
  • If you live near a local pool, go for a swim a few times each week; swimming is an effective, low-impact form of exercise  
  • Some workplaces provide access to or subsidised access to, a gym or training sessions 
  • Join with friends to share the cost of a personal trainer. You may only need a few classes to get some tips and advice on being active. Once you learn new exercises with the trainer, you might be ready to go on your own fitness journey 
  • Get active for free! Go out for a walk to explore your neighbourhood; you might uncover a nearby park or your new favourite café in a local shopping strip.  
Discomfort or pain 

A long-term injury, muscle and joint issue or health condition may cause you to feel pain or discomfort when you get active. If you are worried, speak with your healthcare team before starting a new physical activity. They can help you determine what exercise is best suited to you and help you safely increase your physical activity.  

If you have a heart condition or live with heart disease, speak with your doctor about the types of exercise that meet your needs. Remember, we don’t all need to run marathons or play rough sports to have a healthy heart.  

To minimise pain when you exercise: 

  • Choose an exercise or activity that suits your fitness level and your ability 
  • Learn how to warm up and cool down to ensure your body is ready to be active and supported to recover 
  • Start small and slowly build up your level of exercise. For example, increase the time you spend walking; go from 20 to 25 minutes.  
How much exercise do I need to look after my heart health? 

Doing at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week, can significantly improve your heart health. Remember, you don’t need to do the half-hour of activity in one go: you can break this up. For example, start off by doing three sessions of exercise, each of them lasting for 10 minutes. 

When you exercise, your heart works a little harder to ensure oxygen-rich blood reaches your muscles. By making your heart work a little harder, and building your physical activity to 30 minutes a day, you can cut your heart disease risk by up to a third, regardless of your age, gender, income or where you live.   

Being active can reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, which also lowers your risk of developing heart disease.  

Exercise also helps manage your weight; this reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. 

Plus, getting active can also relieve anxiety and depression and help you feel better about yourself. 

No wonder they call exercise a wonder drug! 

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