We’ve all heard of the benefits of exercise; from boosting your mental and physical health to reducing stress and risk of disease.
And with the Department of Health recommending half an hour of moderate exercise five times a week, there’s no time like the present to start getting in shape — whether you’re young or young at heart.
But what sort of training is right for you? It all comes down to your fitness goals.
Building up fitness
The best way to improve your all-round fitness is to find activities that keep your heart rate elevated, such as running or cycling. As your heart rate rises, you improve blood flow around your body and its ability to deliver oxygen and energy to your muscles. So the more muscles you use the better — for example, you’ll burn two to three times as many calories climbing stairs as walking.
If you’re finding it hard to get motivated on your own, then sign up to your local gym. You can hit the treadmill, exercise bikes or stair machines — and set a pace you’re comfortable with, then gradually increase it as your fitness grows.
In addition to other benefits including improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to reduce your body weight and abdominal fat. HIIT is a type of exercise where you alternate between short bursts of intense activity where you push your body as hard as it can go, and longer periods of lighter activity to allow it to recover.
This means you take your regular high-impact activities like running and cycling, and mix them up with rest periods.
A recent Swedish study revealed that exercise has the single biggest impact on life expectancy, well above other factors like diet and genetics. And low-impact activities, swimming and water aerobics won’t put the same strain on the joints and muscles as jogging or working out at the gym.
And there’s good news if you love playing golf — scientists have also found that golfers have a 40% lower death rate, regardless of age, sex or socio-economic factors. The reason? A round of golf means being out on the course and walking for hours. So it may be time to dust off your golf clubs.
Recovering from injury
When you’re out of action for a while — because of illness, surgery or an injury — your body gradually allows your muscles to s
hut down. This means you need to take things slowly as you get on the road to full recovery.
Walking or swimming is a gentle way to let your body get back into shape, before moving on to more intensive activities. Depending on how you’ve been affected, you may want to consider chair yoga or aerobics, which enables you to sit down while you stretch other parts of your body.
 The Department of Health, Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, 2014.
 Harvard Medical School, Walking: Your steps to health, 2009.
 American College of Sports Medicine, High-intensity interval training, 2014.
 Journal of Internal Medicine, Factors associated with reaching 90 years of age: a study of men born in 1913 in Gothenburg, Sweden, 2010.