In 2020, the World Health Organisation made notable updates to their exercise guidelines. These updates included increasing the recommendations for both the amount of exercise performed each week, as well as adding strength or resistance training such as push-ups or squats to the regimen. Unfortunately, under these guidelines, it was found that 85% of Australian adults and 80% of children were not meeting their exercise targets.
While it’s easy to think of these guidelines as just another recommendation for a healthy life, this mindset fails to connect the true importance of exercise to factors such as disease prevention, bone and muscle strength, balance and stability, cardiovascular health, weight management, managing conditions like diabetes – and so much more. Aside from the physical benefits of exercise, the mental health benefits are very powerful. Exercise is proven to improve your happiness at any age, improve sleep quality, reduce stress, anxiety and depression, your attention span and information processing ability, and supports you in forming stronger meaningful connections with others.
Simply put, exercise is a powerful tool for our overall well-being, health and longevity – and the guidelines are there for a very good reason to support us in getting the most out of life.
What Are The Current Australian Exercise Guidelines?
The guidelines vary by age, as well as in pregnancy, and for those with disabilities and chronic conditions.
For adults (18-64 years) weekly, either:
- 2.5 – 5 hours of moderate intensity activity, like a brisk walk; OR
- 1.25 – 5 hours of vigorous activity, like jogging, cycling or playing netball,
- PLUS two weekly sessions of muscle strengthening activities like lifting weights
For children (5-18 years):
- 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (that makes the heart beat faster) daily
- Three days per week, the 60 minutes should include activities that strengthen muscle and bone, like swimming, dancing, basketball, bike riding
For older adults (65+ years):
- 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily
- Aim to incorporate different types of activities – strength activities like weights or moderate yard work, flexibility activity like stretches, bowls or even vacuuming, and balance-building activities
Do Physiotherapists Meet These Guidelines?
While our personal experience knowing our team at Allsports Physiotherapy shows us that we’re committed to healthy and active lifestyles and meeting our exercise guidelines, formal research was carried out in the UK to assess how many physios (physical therapists), physical therapy assistants and physio students met the guidelines compared to the general population – and even against other health professionals.
The results showed that twice as many people in the physio field met these guidelines compared to the general population – 67% of physios, 64% of physio assistants, and 72% of physio students. This was significantly higher than other health professionals too, who came in at 44.5%. These results reinforce that physiotherapists do live their work, and their extensive experience extends into their personal life too, making them the best health professionals to help you leverage exercise to achieve your goals – whether that’s recovering from injury or surgery, or moving towards general better health.
The results may also be influenced from the insider’s knowledge that physios have on the true impact of physical inactivity. Specifically, physical inactivity is estimated to contribute to about 16,000 Australian deaths annually – approximately 14 times the national road toll. When combined with other factors such as obesity, physical inactivity is ranked alongside smoking as the leading risk factor for disease burden in Australia.
Exercise Tips From The Experts: What Exercise Tips Or Habits Do Physios Swear By?
- If you’re working from home, use the Pomodoro Technique to break up your work. The standard practice is working for 25 minutes then having a 5-minute break. Then every 4 cycles, taking a longer break at 15-30 minutes. By doing this you can use the dedicated rests to get up, move around and stretch. It’s also a fantastic tool for maintaining focus and motivation. To make it easy, there’s a free online Pomodoro timer you can use in your web browser that does it all for you here.
- Share your exercise goals with a friend. Chances are, they also have physical activity goals they want to meet – and it is so much more motivating to do it together and keep one another accountable. We find having a friend to share the exercise journey so beneficial for a variety of reasons – from encouraging one another to try new things like a dance class, to suggesting walks and hikes that you wouldn’t have done on your own. An exercise buddy can also quickly get you out of your head when you’ve had an ‘off’ week or month and haven’t met your goals. This is where many people go wrong and tell themselves that they’ve failed and lose motivation to keep going. Your exercise buddy can quickly dissuade those thoughts and help you get back on track alongside them – which is the true measure of success anyway! As physios, some of our most motivating times where we’ve pushed ourselves and exceeded goals was in a challenge with friends.
- Start choosing restaurants, cafes and other places for activities that you can walk to. This “incidental walking” adds up and makes a massive difference – trust us! Whether you walk to your doctor’s appointment, to a cafe, or you choose a new park 30-minutes away to walk the dog to, these will be solidified in your day as exercise without you even having to ‘try’. As physios we can say that it’s exciting to find new walkable cafes and other spots in the neighbourhood, and it doubles as an excellent way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, put down that smartphone, and spend quality time if you’re walking with a friend or partner.
- Use visual cues. So here’s the thing: it is really easy to forget to do things sometimes – even as a physio. Whether it’s taking that course of antibiotics every 8 hours, stretching, or even something as simple as getting the washing out as soon as it’s done – opting to rely on our memory alone is setting yourself up to fail – and this applies to physios too! So we often use visual cues. This can look like leaving your foam roller clearly visible in your lounge so you remember to do your rolling. It can be a note on your mirror, or on the side of your desktop, reminding you to do a weights set in your next break. It can even be an alarm on your phone that signals it’s time to get outside and go for a walk as a work break.
- Say yes! Some of the most rewarding and unexpectedly fun forms of exercise we’ve undertaken is when we’ve simply said yes to a friend, a flyer, or an event. Even as a physio, we also get tired of the “same old routine” and we want to try something new and have fun – and by saying yes to things that are normally outside of our routine (or our comfort zones), we’ve ended up having the best time. One of these was entering a tough mudder challenge with a group of friends. Other activities have been joining a Zumba class through a gym flyer, or going to a trampoline park.
Need help with reaching your health or recovery goals, or developing an exercise plan that will work for your lifestyle and preferences? Our physios can help. Book an appointment by contacting a clinic near you.