Physical Activity Guidelines and Incidental Exercise

The messages regarding adequate physical activity can seem complicated when coming from government or organisational guidelines.  Here, I outline the key recommendations in an easy, digestible format.

The Department of Health have recently published a document entitled, ‘Start Active, Stay Active’ (DH, 2011).  According to these guidelines:

  • Adults should aim to be active daily.

  • Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.

  • Comparable benefits can be achieved through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week or a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.

  • Adults should also undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week.

  • All adults should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.

  • Older adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits, including maintenance of good physical and cognitive function.

The key message is that:

Some physical activity is better than none, and more physical activity provides greater health benefits.

Don’t forget that there is also ‘incidental exercise.’

Incidental exercise is physical activity that isn’t done deliberately or for the purpose of exercising.

It is the type of exercise that falls below government recommendations for physical activity, but which nevertheless has many benefits for our health and well-being.

How great is that? Some of the daily physical activities we are involved in meet the criteria for incidental exercise and contribute towards keeping us fit and healthy.  These include:

  • Housework

  • Walking the dog

  • Gardening

  • Shopping

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift

  • Getting on off the bus one stop earlier

While incidental exercise does not replace planned exercise, all physical activity helps keep us healthy!



Categories: Health

Tags: , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing this information. It gives me the impetus to start moving more and to start exercising again.

  2. I am pleased it helped, Patricia. It can be daunting to exercise if it isn’t part of your life. However, starting with some incidental exercise and the things you enjoy is a great way to ease you into becoming more physically active. Also, I think some people are scared by the prospect of 30 minutes exercise and don’t realise that breaking that down into 10 minutes at a time can be just as good!

    Good luck Patricia.

  3. See how we can improve our health by simply exercising. It can get scary when illness hits us. My mom had to get an Angioplasty done couple days ago due a blocked artery. Luckily it wasn’t serious enough to get a bypass done. But it’s serious enough for me. The unknown is scary! And choosing the right doctor is another scary part in the process!!

  4. The unknown is scary! One way to reduce that fear is to take action that nourishes our health. At least then we know we have done the best we can to look after our mind and body. I do hope your mother is ok.

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