More than half of all Australian adults are not active enough. Physical inactivity is the second greatest contributor (after smoking) to cancer in Australia.
Benefits of regular physical activity
The physical benefits include:
- reduced risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease
- weight control
- stronger bones, muscles and joints
- more energy, better sleep.
Exercise also has mental and emotional benefits: it can improve your mood, and studies have shown it can help with depression. Exercising with friends and colleagues increases social contact and can make it more fun, too!
How much exercise
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.
The Australian Government’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults recommends you:
- be active on most, preferably all, days every week
- accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1¼ to 2½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week
- do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
Some people think you need to spend a lot of money subsidising gym memberships, and while that is an option, it’s not necessary to get results.
Options at all levels include:
- groups that go for lunchtime walks, bike rides or bootcamps in the local park. It’s easier to stick with exercise if we have a exercise buddy
- step competitions with pedometers/activity trackers
- outdoor events that involve people’s families, too, such as picnic days, golf days or weekend bushwalks
- team participation in fun runs, charity walks and other local/state races/events.
As you can see from these last few examples, workplace exercise events don’t always have to happen in working hours or at the workplace.
You might also want to consider a workplace subscription to a health and fitness magazine that provides motivation and information.
If you’re encouraging workers to exercise, look at the facilities you have that make this easier. These might include:
- change rooms so they can change in and out of their exercise clothes; secure lockers so they can keep their kit at work
- showers, to freshen up after a sweaty workout
- secure bike storage
Maybe you have a large meeting room where the tables and chairs can be stacked away and people can do tai chi, yoga or workouts, either with an expert instructor you organise or to some online videos.
There may also be facilities around you that can be used, such as bike tracks, walking tracks, swimming pools and exercise classes. Some councils host exercise groups in local parks, so see what’s on in your area that you can join.
Safety before you start
- If you’re not very physically active, or have a health condition, check with your GP before you sign up to any exercise.
- Stay hydrated before, during and after any exercise to avoid cramps and fatigue.
- Consider the climate: whether you’re exercising in the heat of summer or the cold of winter, consider if it’s safe to do so. Wear appropriate clothing (to stay warm, cool, or dry) and have weather/sun protection (hats, sunscreen).
- Wear appropriate footwear for the exercise you’re doing.
- Keep your kit at work if you can, so you’re always ready for some exercise.