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Be Active Every Day

Physical activity for heart health

Introduction
What is physical activity?
What are the benefits of regular physical activity?

How much physical activity?
How often and for how long?
National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians
Being active: how to go about it
Being active, staying active
Be active safely
It’s never too late to start!
Looking after your heart
Heartline

Introduction

Being physically active is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Young or old, physical activity brings with it a range of significant benefits. And the good news is activity doesn’t have to be vigorous – moderate activity, such as brisk walking, is great for your health!

Whilst health experts strongly encourage people to be physically active, the amount of activity in our day-to-day lives has reduced significantly in modern times. We now need to find ways to fit physical activity into our daily routine, and begin to think of activity as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience.

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What is physical activity?

Physical activity is any form of bodily movement performed by our large muscle groups – going for a walk, cycling around the neighbourhood and mowing the lawn. Jogging and aerobics are more vigorous types of physical activity.

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What are the benefits of regular physical activity?

People who enjoy regular physical activity tend to:

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How much physical activity?

Some activity is better than none at all and more is better than just a little. Even if you have done no activity in the past, starting to do some form of activity can set you on the road to improved health.

The great news about being physically active is that it doesn’t have to be strenuous or vigorous. Moderate intensity activities (i.e. those that are energetic but don’t make you breathless) such as walking and cycling are enough for you to enjoy the resulting health benefits.

People who wish to be active in a vigorous way, for example aerobics, netball or touch football should continue to do so as these activities can provide additional benefits.

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How often and for how long?

The Heart Foundation and other leading authorities recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on all or most days of the week. This can be accumulated in bouts of ten minutes or more if this is more convenient.

There are many convenient opportunities to be active throughout our normal daily routine. For example walking to and from work when buying your lunch.

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National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians

To help you make physical activity an important part of your day, the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians have been developed by the Department of Health and Aged Care.

The guidelines refer to the minimum levels of physical activity required for good health. They are not intended for high level fitness or sports training. Try to carry out all guidelines and for best results combine an active lifestyle with healthy eating.

1. Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. Where any form of movement of the body is seen as an opportunity for improving health, not as a
time-wasting inconvenience.

2. Be active every day in as many ways as you can. Make a habit of walking or cycling instead of using the car, or do things yourself instead of using labour-saving machines.

3. Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. Moderate-intensity activity includes things such as a brisk walk or cycling. Combine short sessions of different activities of around 10 to 15 minutes each to a total of 30 minutes or more. The 30 minutes total need not be continuous.

4. If you can, also enjoy some regular, vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness. Vigorous exercise makes you ‘huff and puff’. For best results, this should be added to the above guidelines on 3-4 days a week for 30 minutes or more each time.

National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians, Department of Health and Aged Care.

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Being active: how to go about it

Here are a few ideas to help you make physical activity a part of your day:

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Being active, staying active

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Be active safely

Safety considerations for moderate physical activity

Most adults do not have to visit their doctor before commencing some moderate physical activity. However, for people with chronic health conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes), it is advisable to consult your doctor before starting your physical activity program to discuss the types of activities that best suit your needs.

Safety considerations for vigorous physical activity

If you’ve been inactive and want to begin vigorous physical activity, ensure you see a doctor first if:

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It’s never too late to start!

Research has confirmed that it is never too late to start being active. People of all ages can improve their health and well being by starting some moderate-intensity activity. The benefits start to occur as soon as you take up physical activity regardless of your age.

It is important to follow a few sensible steps during your activity.

If you feel discomfort, have chest pain, are more breathless than you should be, or your heartbeat becomes rapid or irregular during activity, stop immediately and seek medical advice.

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Looking after your heart

Physical activity goes a long way towards improving your heart health, however,
it doesn’t cancel out your risk caused by smoking, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels. To maximise your heart health be active every day, be smoke free and enjoy healthy eating.

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Heartline

You can find out more information about the benefits of being active by calling Heartline on 1300 36 27 87 during business hours. Heartline is the Heart Foundation’s national telephone information service. For the cost of a local call from anywhere in Australia you can speak to a trained health professional on issues such as heart disease and stroke, healthy eating, controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking cessation, physical activity and heart surgery.

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Text adapted from the Heart Foundation’s brochure Be Active Every Day, 1999. For a copy of the brochure please call Heartline on 1300 36 27 87.