As Aussies, with our beautiful beaches, nature reserves and weather, we like to think of ourselves as a fit and healthy nation – but we aren’t. One in every two adults doesn’t even meet the physical activity guidelines that were set out in 2017-2018, which require just 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity per week! Even more concerning is that more than one-third of the burden caused by disease in this country can be alleviated by increased levels of physical activity.
We all know the benefits of healthy exercise, from better weight management and better quality sleep to reducing risks of everything from heart disease and colon cancer to alleviating depression and stress. Sounds like a win-win situation for us as individuals as well as the healthcare system and the economy! Now that you’re inspired to get active, let’s look at the physical activity itself so you start on the right foot.
Different Types of Physical Activity
- The warm-up – Warm-ups are a series of stretches and gentle movements that prepare your body for exertion. This helps prevent injury and ease any areas that are tight or sore. If you want to start jogging, walking for 10 minutes is a good warm-up. Most exercise classes will start with a warm-up too.
- Strength activities – Guidelines recommended that you do strength activities 2 days a week. These are activities that boost muscle strength and mass, as well as strengthening your bones. They are important at any age, but especially as you get older. Good strength activities include lifting light weights, doing bodyweight resistance exercises (lunges, push-ups, squats, planks, etc.)
- Cardiovascular activities – Cardio activities get your blood pumping, increasing your breathing rate and making your heart and muscles work hard. In order for an activity to be considered moderate, a good rule to follow is that you should still be able to hold a conversation. If you can’t talk, breath and perform your activity, you’re pushing yourself beyond moderate exercise. Typical cardio activities include cycling, jogging, aerobics, rugby, soccer and basketball. However, anything that gets your heart rate up is cardio, so you can dance yourself to good health too!
How to Start Your Fitness Journey
If you have any pre-existing or chronic health conditions, including heart problems, joint pain, obesity or asthma, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first before you start. They can recommend a program and activities that are safe as well as enjoyable, and give you plenty of information on how to ramp up your activity levels.
Another important thing is to start slow. When we first start an activity, it’s hard not to think of people who are at the top of their game, especially if they are in our closest circles. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else – you’re doing this for you. Start slowly, even slower than you think you need, and gradually increase your activity level and frequency.
Remember to listen to your body. If you are having pain, are breathless or your heart is beating too rapidly, stop the physical activity and get medical help if you need it.
Join a group in your area. This will help keep you motivated and means that there are always other people to look out for you, encourage you and join you on this journey. Find something you really love, and your heart will love you for it!
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