Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines | What's for eats?

A new set of guidelines for physical activity and sedentary behaviour have been released by the Department of Health. These guidelines replace the ones that were developed way back in 2005!

Regular physical activity is important for physical and mental health. It can reduce the risk of many health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, musculoskeletal problems, anxiety, depression, and unhealthy weight gain. Doing some physical activity is better than doing none at all, and being able to gradually increase the amount of physical activity is even better!

What is ‘physical activity’?

Physical activity doesn’t just mean playing sport, going for a run or hitting the gym. Physical activity is any activity that gets your body moving, raises your heart rate and makes your breathe harder and faster.

What has changed?

These new guidelines double the upper limit of the amount of recommended weekly physical activity from 150 minutes per week, to 300 minutes per week (that’s roughly an hour each day).

And for the first time, the guidelines include recommendations that discourage sedentary behaviour. This is important given the increasing amount of time we are now spending at desks, on the couch or in front of a screen (whether that be a TV, computer, gaming device or smart phone).

So, if you are currently meeting the previous guideline of 150 minutes per week, then you should look to increase that until you are doing 300 minutes per week.

If you are not meeting the previous recommended 150 minutes, then it is important to be aware of the new recommendations and gradually increase your physical activity levels to the new guidelines.

The new guidelines

These guidelines are for all adults aged 18-64 years.

Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour

What’s the difference between ‘moderate intensity’ and vigorous intensity’?

Moderate intensity physical activity requires some effort, but you can still carry out a conversation. Brisk walking, swimming, riding a bike, social tennis, dancing are examples.

Vigorous intensity physical activity needs more effort and makes you “huff and puff”. These are activities where it is much harder to carry out a conversation. Running, aerobics, fast cycling, many organised sports or tasks that involve digging, lifting or carrying are examples.

How to do it?

There are a number of ways you can increase your physical activity daily

  • Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
  • For short trips, leave the car at home and walk or ride your bike OR
  • Park further away from your destination
  • Use your lunch break to get away from your desk and take a walk outside
  • Organise walking meetings
  • Move your rubbish bin away from your desk so you have to get up to use it
  • Walk to deliver a message to colleagues, rather than phoning or emailing
  • Set reminder on your computer to stand up and walk a lap around the office/house
  • Get up to change the channel on the TV instead of using the remote
  • Walk around when talking on your mobile phone

Children and older adults

There are new guidelines for children and older adults too. Head to Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for the specific recommendations.

Please note:

Physical activity is generally safe for everyone but physical and mental abilities should be considered when putting these guidelines into practice. If you aren’t used to doing much physical activity, it is advisable to start slowly and gently (e.g. by walking) and gradually build up your physical activity until you reach the recommended levels. Talk to your health professional if you are not sure where you should start.

Image courtesy of Ed Yourdon

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