Well the Government has been great recently at giving plenty of directives and advice for us all, and necessarily so. And amongst all the difficulty and hardship hasn’t it been great to see so many people out walking and riding and playing with kids. I still get a real thrill out of driving past a park and seeing it absolutely packed with families (social distancing of course) kicking balls and playing games.

Unfortunately in many ways it has taken this pandemic to almost force many of us into more physical activity – being at home so often just isn’t good for our physical and mental health.

The real concern comes when restrictions start to lift, and people can go back to work and school, and life resumes its normal craziness, as opposed to COVID craziness. Will we still see so many people at the park? Will we have to deviate sideways around the volume of people walking along the path in the opposite direction to us?

Whilst we do have the opportunity to be so active, it is worthy reflecting on what the exercise guidelines actually are for adults, and trying to set goals and habits that continue long after we beat the COVID – 19 threat. But before we get to the exercise guidelines, let’s take a look at why we need the guidelines!

  • Physical inactivity contributes to over three million preventable deaths worldwide each year and is the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable diseases.
  • Physical inactivity is the second highest cause of cancer in Australia, behind tobacco smoking.
  • 60 per cent of Australian adults do less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each day.
  • Only one third of Australian children, and one in 10 young people (aged 5–17), do the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Almost 70 per cent of Australian adults can be classed as either sedentary or having low levels of physical activity.

What are the recommendations?

If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount below. For adults aged 18 – 64, the recommendations are: 

  • 150 minutes (same for older adults) of moderate intensity physical activity, ideally 5 x 30 minute sessions, or
  • 75 minutes (eg 5 x 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity physical activity, which will help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, heart health, as well as muscle and bone strength.

Note that it is recommended that two of these sessions involve strength work. So whilst walking is a fantastic start, most of us will also require some form of resistance, or weight, or strength exercise for maximum health benefit. And moderate intense exercise doesn’t need to be separate from vigorous exercise

Ideally, after establishing a base of physical activity, the goal is to get your activity up towards:

  • 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or
  • 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, will provide greater benefits and help prevent some cancers and unhealthy weight gain.

Moderate Intensity Activities take some effort, but you are still able to talk while doing them.

E.g. a brisk walk, recreational swimming, dancing, social tennis, golf, or pushing a stroller.

Vigorous Intensity Activities require more effort and make you breathe harder and faster.

Eg chasing the kids at the park, a very brisk walk or ride, jogging

And… Sit Less!

Even if you do more than the recommended amount of physical activity every week, you will still benefit from minimising time spent sitting each day, and from regularly interrupting periods of sitting. Even that 30 minute exercise session at the park may not offset the effects of sitting all day.

Our take home message today: Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. Aim at 30 minutes a day for five days a week. Get yourself active now and form exercise habits whilst you can – you will certainly notice the difference in your health.

Anthony Lance

SSPC Physiotherapist

Reference: health.gov.au