We’ve always been told that to keep fit and healthy, we need 30 minutes of exercise each day. But the guidelines have changed, and now the experts want us to double that to an hour a day.
With most of us feeling the pressure of daily life, like long work commutes and busy schedules, the prospect of fitting in an hour of exercise sounds like a daunting task.
“30 minutes [a day] isn’t enough for weight loss and maintenance of weight loss.”
Around 56 per cent of Australians are inactive or don’t get enough exercise, increasing their risk of cancer, weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
According to the new physical activity guidelines released in February, physical inactivity is the greatest contributor, behind smoking, to the cancer burden in Australia.
The new exercise guidelines
Professor Jo Salmon from Deakin University, who helped author the new guidelines, says 30 minutes is no longer enough for the average Aussie who is putting on 500 grams of weight per year.
“The doubling is coming from evidence that suggests we need to do a lot more if we’re wanting to do something about our weight,” says Professor Salmon.
She says that the old guideline of 30 minutes of physical activity per day is still a base recommendation for the general population who are within a heathy weight range.
“30 minutes isn’t enough for weight loss and maintenance of weight loss,” says Professor Salmon.
How can we get enough?
The new guidelines say that adults need five hours of moderate physical activity, or two and a half hours of vigorous physical activity, each week to ward off health problems like diabetes and cancer.
Moderate physical activity takes effort, but you are still able to hold a conversation while doing it. Examples include brisk walking, dancing, or household tasks like vacuuming.
Vigorous physical activity will see your breathing become more rapid. Try going for a jog, taking the stairs instead of the lift, cycling or playing organised sports.
The new guidelines don’t mean that you have to spend every night in the gym. Try walking or cycling instead of always driving to work and the shops, or do some pushups in your lounge room.
Include muscle strengthening
Muscle strengthening exercises, like bodyweight exercises such as lunges, or lifting light weights, are important to maintain muscle mass and bone density.
While walking is good for heart health, it doesn’t improve muscle mass, something that begins to decrease when we reach age 45.
Sitting is the new smoking
The new guidelines also warn that sitting for prolonged periods also increases your risk of developing health conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Many of us work in desk jobs that require us to sit for long periods, but standing up often is important for your health.
Get up from your desk often to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or try walking over to a colleague instead of calling them.
“It can be things like standing up on the phone or having standing meetings. These are all really easily modifiable things that you can do in the workplace,” says Professor Salmon.