Premier’s Active April – Are you getting enough exercise?

Excess weight, especially obesity, is a major risk factor for many preventable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers. As the level of excess weight increases, so does the risk of developing these conditions.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one-quarter (26%) of children and adolescents, and nearly two-thirds (60%) of adults were overweight or obese in 2014-2015. The most frightening part is that rates of overweight and obesity are rapidly increasing and this has a major impact on health and healthcare costs.

Obesity and other non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes are now the world’s biggest killers. The Better Health Channel states that they cause an estimated 35 million deaths each year, which is 60% of all deaths globally.

Overweight and obesity are preventable diseases by choosing healthier, lower-energy foods, and increasing physical activity. Everybody can and should seek changes to their lifestyle to help them remain at a healthy weight.

Premier's Active April

Premier’s Active April is on again this year. Visit the site to see how else you can get involved!

Active April

Premier’s Active April is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to promote healthy and active lifestyles and get Victorians to join in the fun of increased physical activity. It is a fantastic initiative to get people more physically active and to show you that exercising isn’t something that requires are lot of time or expense. Today we’re going to explain the importance of physical activity and then over the next few weeks, we will go through goal setting and give you some tips on how to make exercise part of your daily routine.

Physical activity helps to promote healthy growth and development, build strong bones and muscles, helps improve sleep and helps improve confidence and self-esteem in children. According to recent research, physical activity levels for Australians are declining, with around 62% of Australian adults not meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. This is partly due to the sedentary nature of many forms of work and leisure activities, such as watching television or using computers, as well as changes in transportation.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a snapshot of the physical activity patterns of Australian adults which included the following:

  • around 62% of Australian adults did not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines
  • a higher proportion of women than men were not meeting the guidelines
  • the proportion of people who did not meet the guidelines was highest in older adults – those aged 75 years and over
  • almost 40% of adults did no exercise during the previous week
  • adults with a higher education level (those who had completed year 12 or equivalent, or had high education qualifications) were more likely to meet the physical activity guidelines than those who had a lower education level (those who had completed year 11 or lower or had no post-school qualifications)

So, with all of this talk about the “recommended physical activity guidelines”, what are they exactly and what constitutes “physical activity”?

Physical activity refers to anything that gets your body moving, makes your breathing quicker and makes your heart beat faster. The amount of physical activity you need varies, depending on your age.

Children 0-5 years

It is important for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers to be active every day to encourage healthy growth and development.

According to the Better Health Channel, the following guidelines are recommended for babies and small children:

  • babies from birth to 1 year can be encouraged to play on the floor in a safe and supervised environment – tummy time gives babies opportunities to develop their muscles as they move onto activities like reaching, rolling, sitting up and crawling
  • toddlers and pre-schoolers need at least 3 hours of physical activity every day

Children 5-12 years

Being physically active doesn’t only mean a healthy body for children of this age; it is also an opportunity to make new friends and develop their social skills.

The following guidelines are recommended for children aged 5-12 years:

  • at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, such as walking, running, jumping, skipping or cycling
  • strengthening activities are also important and children of this age should participate in strengthening activities at least 3 days per week – these include body weight activities, such as climbing, swinging, jumping and skipping (playgrounds are excellent for these types of activities)

Young people 13-17 years

This can be a challenging time to try and keep physically active as there are often a lot of life changes. Adolescents of this age are moving through school and becoming independent, even finding jobs.

Following are some guidelines for people aged 13-17 years:

  • at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity per day
  • strengthening at least 3 days per week

Adults 18-64 years

As an adult, your health and wellbeing depend on you being physically active and limiting your sedentary behaviour. Exercise can often be put at the bottom of a long to-do list, but physical activity can be planned in short bursts that fit around your life.

To maintain health and reduce your risk of health problems, a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days is recommended.

The Australian Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines state that:

  • 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
  • be active on most, preferably all, days every week
  • accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity or an equivalent combination each week
  • muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week

Older people 65 years and above

Being physically active and staying fit and healthy will help you to get the most out of life, whatever your age. Aim for 30 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Even the smallest increase in your physical activity can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.

The following guidelines are recommended for physical activity for older people:

  • some physical activity is recommended, no matter what an older person’s age, weight, health problems or abilities – there is an activity to suit everyone
  • try to do a range of activities that incorporate different ways to build your fitness, strength balance and flexibility
  • if you have previously stopped physical activity, or if you’re starting a new activity that you haven’t done before, start at a level that you can easily manage – you can build up to the recommended amount as your fitness and confidence grows

Increases in daily activity come from small changes made throughout the 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.

It is a good idea to see your doctor before starting your physical activity program if:

  • you are aged over 45 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’re at a higher risk of heart disease
  • you think you might have heart disease or you have heart problems
  • you are pregnant

Over the next few weeks we will look at common excuses and blocks that often prevent people from getting enough physical activity, goal setting, and how to incorporate physical activity into your busy schedule. But for now, here are a few 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
  • minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.