Physical activity or exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing certain conditions or diseases including depression and anxiety. Physical activity can help you manage your weight and prevent osteoporosis.
The many benefits of exercise and physical activity are now well documented. Regular physical activity has the ability to reduce the risk of several major chronic diseases, as well as promote quality of life and a sense of wellbeing.
It only takes 30 minutes a day to enjoy these benefits.
Benefits of regular physical activity
If you are regularly physically active, you tend to:
- Reduce your risk of a heart attack
- Manage your weight better
- Have a lower blood cholesterol level
- Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- Have lower blood pressure
- Have stronger bones, muscles and joints and lower the risk of osteoporosis
- Recover better from a heart attack
- Feel better – more energy, happy and relaxed, and sleep better.
A healthier state of mind
A number of studies have found that exercise helps depression. There are many views as to how exercise helps people with depression. Exercise may block negative thoughts or distract people from daily worries. Exercising with others, provides an opportunity for increased social contact. Increased fitness may lift mood and improve sleep patterns. Exercise may also change levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones.
Aim for at least 30 minutes a day
To maintain health and reduce risk of health problems, health professionals and researchers recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. This is one of the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults.
These national Guidelines recommend the minimum amount of physical activity you need to do to enhance your health. The four guidelines are:
- Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. Any form of movement is an opportunity to improve your health.
- Be active every day in as many ways as you can. Make a habit of walking or cycling instead of using the car.
- Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
- If you can, also enjoy some regular, vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness. Vigorous exercise makes you ‘huff and puff’ such as jogging, aerobics and netball.
Ways to increase activity
Increases in daily activity can come from small changes made throughout your day, such as walking or cycling instead of using the car, getting off a tram, train or bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, or walking the children to school.
See your doctor first
It is a good idea to see your doctor before starting your physical activity program if:
- You are aged over 40 years
- Physical activity causes pain in your chest
- You often faint or have spells of severe dizziness
- Moderate physical activity makes you very breathless
- You are at a higher risk of heart disease
- You think you might have heart disease or you have heart problems
- You are pregnant.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Exercise physiologist ESSA Exercise & Sports Science Australia
- Australian Physiotherapy Association Tel. 1300 306 622
Things to remember
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
- See everyday activities as a good opportunity to be active.
- Try to find the time for some regular, vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness benefits.
You might also be interested in:
- Exercise - everyday activities.
- Exercise intensity.
- Exercise programs.
- Exercises that could be harmful.
- Illness - tips to help you recover.
- Physical activity - choosing a provider.
- Physical activity - choosing the one for you.
- Physical activity - how to get started.
- Physical activity - men.
- Physical activity - overcoming the barriers.
- Physical activity - setting yourself goals.
- Physical activity - staying motivated.
- Physical activity - women.
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
(Logo links to further information)
Physical Activity Australia (formerly Kinect Australia)
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: March 2011
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
Copyight © 1999/2013 State of Victoria. Reproduced from the Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) at no cost with permission of the Victorian Minister for Health. Unauthorised reproduction and other uses comprised in the copyright are prohibited without permission.