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Decoding Physical Activity Guidelines

The recommendations for weekly physical activity can be confusing. There is often a ‘blanket’ approach used to try and ensure it fits the general population. Obviously, this does not take into account individual limitations, physical abilities and other considerations that may inhibit one achieving these guidelines. I will discuss what these recommendations are, and ways to achieve them. It is important to remember that each person has their own capabilities. So it is best to speak to your Exercise Physiologist, who can provide the most unique and tailored exercise and physical activity program.


This intensity of activity requires less than 40% of your maximal heart rate. Seated activity gives an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As we know, there are many health consequences to sitting for too long a time.


This intensity of activity requires 40 to 55% of your maximal heart rate. Often refers to domestic or occupational tasks e.g. cleaning, washing dishes, ironing, computer work, cooking or eating.


This intensity of activity requires 55 to 70% of your maximal heart rate. Normally performed for more than 10 minutes, such as golf, walking, gentle swimming, or social tennis. It is recommended to perform more than 30 minutes of this type of activity on all or most days of the week.


This intensity of activity requires 70 to 90% of your maximal heart rate. Most people do not perform this activity on a typical day, as it requires 6 to 9 times the energy, and is found in competitive tennis, jogging, cycling, aerobics, or resistance training. Exercises that make you ‘huff and puff.’


This type of activity requires more than 90% of your maximal heart rate, so is rarely found in daily activity. This intensity of activity is used when training elite athletes and in competitive sport.

As you can see, there is quite a difference between the types of activity we perform on a day to day basis. The majority of people spend too much time within the sedentary to light range. For optimal health, moderate physical activity should be performed each day, for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. Vigorous physical activity should be performed 2 to 3 times per week, depending on your fitness level.

If you are interested in adding in some vigorous activity into your routine, but unsure of how, speak to your Exercise Physiologist, who will prescribe a level that is safe for you. The key message to take away is to try and be as active as possible every day, even if that means getting up and walking around the office, to break up long hours of sedentary behaviour.

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