The Health Benefits of Physical Activity

Written By James Morley

January 03, 2021

 Let me start my article with a question for you. Are you physically active? Or should I be asking, what is your interpretation of physical activity?

The World Health Organisation and the Australian Department of Health define physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that increase energy requirements. Other benefits are the increased muscle and bone strength, and improvement in mental health and cognitive abilities while reducing chronic health conditions. Whereas; physical fitness is determined by how well a person performs a physical activity. Both definitions fit on the continuum of being healthy, where health is defined by the physical, mental and social wellbeing of an individual and not just the absence of disease.

The western world recognises Australia as a sporting nation, and we pride ourselves on the success of our sports teams and sporting heroes for their achievements in their sport. Statistical data in 2020 indicated 89% of adults over the age of 15 years participated in sport or were physically active with 54% of women and 68% of men participating in sport-related activities. Yet 67% of adults are overweight or obese with 47% of Australians suffering from chronic health conditions related to behavioural risk factors.

 

A person’s health is shaped by behaviours, healthy or risky and are influenced by our family members, social environment and economic availability. We all can slide one way or another by making good healthy choices or bad risky decisions. We are only human and make mistakes along the way, but you should make the right choice towards health.

 

Behavioural risk factors smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, poor nutrition and physical inactivity expose a person to harm with detrimental effects on their health; lung cancer, liver disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions.

However, all behavioural risk factors are modifiable by making healthy changes towards quitting cigarettes, reducing alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet, having quality sleeping patterns, reducing stress levels and increasing physical activity. Over time healthy behaviours become a lifestyle fixture and help influence and inspire our friends and family members, especially our children, to grow up healthy and reach their full potential for future success.

So, where should you start when choosing to be physically active?

Physical activity can be as incidental and straightforward as going for a walk, gardening or riding your bike to work. Or you could plan a more structured routine by joining a gym or a sporting club, participating in group fitness classes, practising yoga, or just enjoying a solo swim at the pool on alternating days.

Both the World Health Organisation and the Australian Department of Health indicate we should be aiming for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week. People who exercise at levels above these recommendation will greatly increase their cardiopulmonary fitness, coordination and cognitive abilities, while reducing chronic health conditions. As the physical activity pyramid suggest, we start by introducing incidental activities everyday of the week. Incorporate cardio and recreational activities three to five times a week, with strength and flexibility session twice a week and limit our sedentary habits.

Now you might be thinking that you do not have the time, energy or finances to commit towards being physically active. I ask if you have the time or the finances of developing a chronic illness? You do not have to commit to the whole pyramid, just start at the base and in time I am sure you will reach the peak.

And so with the information provided on what it means to be physically activity, can you answer if you are physically active? And will you make a start for a healthier future?

Exercise Triangle

 

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