In February, the Australian Department of Health issued new guidelines for physical activity. Whereas, the old guidelines suggested you should move up to 150 minutes each week, the new guidelines prescribe moving between 150-300 minutes each week, including two (approximately 20 minute) sessions of strength training. That is an average of 21-43 minutes of moderate activity (the activity requires some effort, but you are able to carry on a conversation) EVERY day. Consequently, if your preferred activity is vigorous (substantial effort and leaves you huffing and puffing), 75-150 minutes is all that is needed, or an equivalent combination of both.
A common response I often hear when speaking about exercise frequency is, “I just don’t have the time!” Recognising that time is a valuable and seemingly diminishing commodity, my general response is, “you have to make time to move”. Whether it’s waking every morning before sunrise, scheduling it in following the school run, sneaking it in during your lunch break, hitting the gym after work, or you’re a confirmed night owl, the simple solution is to schedule exercise into your day and make a commitment to your routine. Below are some suggestions of how you can increase your activity levels to meet the current guidelines:
1. Identify an activity that interests you or sounds like fun. There are so many varied and interesting forms of exercise available these days: running, biking, swimming, gym classes, weight training, Pilates, yoga, boxing, martial arts, outdoor “boot camps”, individual and team sports, ballroom dancing, gymnastics, pole dancing, barre classes, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, classical dancing…the list goes on and on. There is guaranteed to be an activity out there that will suit each individual.
2. Identify a time (or times) that you know you can commit to on a regular basis.Consider what your energy levels are like as the day progresses. What time(s) of day do you have the least amount of conflict with your otherwise busy schedule?
3. Find an exercise buddy with similar interests and level of commitment. It’s amazing how much more accountable you are when someone is depending on you to show up.
4. Get your friends and family involved. Love a weekend brekkie? Great—how about gathering your friends or family for a walk, bike ride, swim or paddle before breakfast?Or an afternoon bushwalk to a stunning viewpoint followed by a picnic? The added benefit is that if you indulge a little, you know you’ve “earned” that indulgence!
5. Set a goal. What’s on your bucket list? Is it a 5K/10K, a marathon, a triathlon, a race or competition, a trek in the Himalayas, a black belt in martial arts? Make your goal reasonable and measurable, for example, “I will complete a marathon in 6 months”. Write your goal down, stick it on the fridge and share it with your loved ones. Putting it in writing makes it more “real” and increases the accountability factor.
6. Track your progress.There are so many apps on the market to aid in tracking your exercise output and reaching your goals. Not technologically inclined? How about investing in an old fashioned pedometer?
7. Commit!!! Exercise needs to fit into your schedule like…breathing (just kidding, but you get the point). Write it into your diary if you must. Set a recurring alarm if you are an early morning warrior. Make you and your health a priority.
As always, before embarking on any new form of exercise, it is advisable to check with your GP or schedule a screening appointment with your physio. Additionally, please consider gradually increasing the frequency and intensity of your preferred activity(ies) to prevent injury. Remember: Any activity is better than no activity! For further information about the new guidelines, please refer to www.health.gov.au.