Exercise Tips for Adults

Exactly how much do we need?

The amount of physical activity required per week depends on your age. Adults aged 19 to 64 need both aerobic exercise and strength exercise to stay healthy.

Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking or cycling every week, and some strength exercises that engage all the major muscles (back, abdomen, hips legs, chest, shoulders and arms)on twice or more a week.

Although moderate activity can yield great results, vigorous or high intensity activity can provide the same in half the time. One minute of vigorous activity brings forth the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.

To reach your recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week, you can do 30 minutes of vigorous activity 5 days a week.

Along with exercise, all adults should should also break up long periods of sitting as this habit produces bad results for your health regardless of whether you exercise regularly or not.

So, what counts as moderate aerobic activity?

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:

  • walking fast
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking
  • skateboarding
  • rollerblading
  • volleyball
  • basketball

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can't sing the words to a song.

What counts as vigorous activity?

There is good evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity.

Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most people include:

  • jogging or running
  • swimming fast
  • riding a bike fast or on hills
  • singles tennis
  • football
  • rugby
  • skipping rope
  • hockey
  • aerobics
  • gymnastics
  • martial arts

Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. In general, 75 minutes of vigorous activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate activity.

For a moderate to vigorous workout, try Couch to 5K, a nine-week running plan for beginners.

What activities strengthen muscles?

Muscle strength is necessary for:

  • all daily movement
  • to build and maintain strong bones
  • to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure
  • to help maintain a healthy weight

Muscle-strengthening exercises are counted in repetitions and sets. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like a bicep curl or a sit-up. A set is a group of repetitions.

For each strength exercise, try to do:

  • at least one set
  • eight to 12 repetitions in each set

To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you struggle to complete another repetition.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities for most people include:

  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • yoga

Try Strength and Flex, a 5-week exercise plan for beginners to improve your strength and flexibility.

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same day or on different days as your aerobic activity - whatever's best for you.

Muscle-strengthening exercises are not an aerobic activity, so you'll need to do them in addition to your 150 minutes of aerobic activity.

Some vigorous activities count as both an aerobic activity and a muscle-strengthening activity.

Examples include:

  • circuit training
  • aerobics
  • running
  • football
  • rugby
  • netball
  • hockey