It’s that time of year when frosty mornings and dark winter evenings have us moving our bodies less than we should. That’s why this edition of Health Matters is dedicated to explaining why physical activity is so good for our health and to remind us to keep kicking our exercise goals, no matter the time of year.
Move your way to better health in 2019
Did you know that physical activity not only helps us to achieve a healthy weight but also helps to reduce our risk of chronic disease? That’s right – being physically active can improve our blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which helps to reduce our risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as certain cancers.
Staying physically active as we get older also helps our bones, muscles and joints to stay strong, helping to prevent falls and injuries in later life. Research has also shown that people who exercise regularly have improved mental and emotional well-being. That’s because physical activity can boost mood, reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy levels and improve concentration – and perhaps most importantly, help us to get a better night’s sleep!
Physical activity is vital in ensuring your optimal health, improving your well-being in physical, mental and social domains.
How is physical activity related to good health?
Physical activity is any type of exercise that gets your body moving, increasing your heart rate and breathing. It can be intentional (e.g. running, playing sports) or incidental (e.g. climbing stairs in the office, walking to the bus stop). Maintaining an adequate level of physical activity is beneficial for people of all ages – from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood and older age.
In adults, regular physical activity encourages a healthy weight and reduces the risk of chronic disease. That’s because physical activity improves your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, so it’s a great way to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. In fact, a lack of physical activity is the second largest contributor (behind tobacco smoking) to Australia’s cancer burden.1 Staying physically active in older age can also help manage pain, prevent falls and injuries, and keep your bones and joints strong.
The benefits of having an active lifestyle are not just limited to your physical health. Research has shown that those who are physically active have improved mental and emotional well-being – it boosts your mood, reduces stress and anxiety and improves your self-esteem. Regular physical activity can also increase your energy levels, improve your concentration and result in a better night’s sleep.
Lastly, if you choose activities you like, physical activity can be a great source of enjoyment. It can help you relax and can also create opportunities for socialising and meeting new people.
How much do Australian Adults Exercise?
Unfortunately, the physical activity levels of many people fall short of recommended levels. Around 44.5% of Australian adults don’t maintain activity levels necessary for good health.2 As you might expect, people’s level of physical activity tends to decrease with increasing age. In one survey, the average time spent being physically active totalled only 20 minutes per day for those aged 75 years and older.
How much should I be exercising?
If you are 18 years or over, you should aim for:
2.5–5 hours of moderate-intensity activity per week OR 1.25–2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity activity per week OR an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activities. Moderate-intensity activity requires effort; however, conversation is still possible (e.g. brisk walk, golf, gardening). Vigorous-intensity activity requires more effort, causing a large increase in your heart rate and rate of breathing (e.g. running, cycling, playing sport).
Muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days per week (e.g. push-ups, squats, weights).
If you are 65 years and older, you should also try and incorporate balance and flexibility exercises into your routine. Balance exercises help prevent falls and may include standing on one foot or walking heel to toe. Flexibility exercises will help you retain your range of movement and may include yoga, tai chi or stretching exercises.
What is sedentary behaviour?
Sedentary behaviour refers to any waking behaviour that involves sitting or lying and requires little energy. On average, sedentary activity occupies 39 hours of an Australian adult’s week (including 13 hours of watching TV). This increases to an average of 19 hours for people aged 75 and over. Being sedentary is different to being physically inactive – a person may do enough physical activity, but still spend a lot
of time sitting or lying. Therefore, in addition to the benefits of increasing your physical activity, there are further benefitsfrom minimising your sedentary behaviour.
How can your GP help?
If you want to increase your physical activity levels and would like some professional advice on the
best ways to do so, a health assessment with your GP is a good place to start.
Your GP will assess your current health status, then taking into account any health issues you may have, he/she can recommend suitable activities for you. During this consultation, your GP can also identify any other steps you can take to remain healthy and prevent any health issues from developing or worsening.
Medicare provides rebates for health assessments for the following individuals:
Patients aged 45–49 years who are at risk of developing a chronic disease
Patients aged 75 years and older Patients aged 40–49 years who are at risk of type 2 diabetes
Permanent residents of residential aged care facilities
Patients with an intellectual disability
Refugees and other humanitarian entrants (within 12 months of arrival).
If you are not sure if you fit into one of these groups, call your local Modern Medical clinic – your usual doctor
can advise you further. And if you don’t fit into one of these groups, don’t worry! You can still book in for a health assessment and plan with your usual doctor. You will simply be charged our normal consultation
fee (or bulk-billed, where eligible).
Note: if your health plan indicates you require treatment or referral to other providers, some of these costs may also be covered by Medicare. For example, if you are referred to an allied health service, up to 5 sessions will be partially or fully covered by Medicare (depending on the service) – as long as these services are provided within the following 12 months.
How do I decrease my levels of sedentary behaviour?
The key to decreasing your sedentary behaviour is to make small changes to your routine – you’d be surprised at the difference this makes. These changes may include:
Walking to the TV to change the channel, rather than using the remote
Taking a walk during your lunch break at work, rather than sitting at your desk
Parking your car further from your destination and walking the rest of the way
Swapping your screen for an outdoor activity (e.g. playing sport, gardening) during your leisure time
Planning an outdoor activity with a friend (e.g. hiking, cycling), rather than catching up at a café.
Getting started is simple.
Just call your Modern Medical clinic to make an appointment today! Simply mention that you would like a health assessment and the team will book the appropriate appointment.