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How to start exercising

5-minute read

Everyone should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Moderate-intensity physical activity is an activity that is energetic and raises your heart rate, but doesn't make you too breathless, such as fast walking.

If you are pregnant, have been previously inactive, or suffer from any medical conditions, it is recommended that you seek medical advice before commencing vigorous physical activity.

For best results in achieving a healthier lifestyle and reducing your risk of developing a chronic disease, combine physical activity with healthy eating.

Build up slowly

Some physical activity is better than none, and more is better than a little. But you don’t have to exercise to the point of being in pain to get a health benefit.

If you don’t do any physical activity at all, start by just doing some. You can build up gradually.

It can be a good idea to set short-term and long-term goals. Make your goals specific, measurable and achievable. Rather than a vague goal like 'I will get fit', try 'I will walk every day for 10 minutes after meals' or 'I will get on and off the bus/train 2 stops away from my usual stop'.

Make time to exercise

Make time to be physically active and schedule it as you would an appointment. Set a date for when you will start. Write the date down and stick to it.

One idea is to make an activity planner so you can put the times and days you will do each activity.

Do not give up before you start to see the benefits. Be patient and keep at it.

Choose activities that are right for you

Do something that you enjoy or go for something different you've always wanted to try, such as walking, jogging, joining a team sport, taking a group fitness class, dancing and swimming.

You can get back on your bike with AustCycle, which provides cycling courses for people who want to ride bikes for recreation and transport. Courses are run by trained teachers who help participants improve their riding skills and safety, and encourage them to ride more often.

Try some strength training by joining a Lift for Life program. Lift for Life is a strength training program designed specifically for people with, or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Build physical activity into your everyday life

Try to look for opportunities to build as much physical activity into everyday activities as you can. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Buy yourself a pedometer — a wearable gadget that counts how many steps you take. Use this to motivate you to keep increasing your daily steps. 10,000 steps is a website dedicated to motivating people to build up to 10,000 steps a day.
  • Walk or cycle instead of using the car for short trips.
  • If you have to drive, park further away from your destination or get off the bus, train or tram one stop early.
  • Rather than spend 5 minutes circling a car park looking for that 'perfect space' near the entrance to the shops, park 5 minutes away and spend that time walking instead.
  • Walk on escalators — it’s quicker so you’ll actually save time. Or better still, use the stairs.
  • Work in the garden — get into some energetic gardening activities like digging, shifting soil, and mowing the lawn to raise your heart rate.
  • Clean the house! Activities like vacuuming, cleaning windows and scrubbing floors that raise your heart rate are all good examples of moderate activity.

Make it fun

Physical activity can make you feel good about yourself and it’s a good opportunity to have fun with other people or enjoy some time to yourself.

Planning physical activity with others can help you stick to your plan and achieve your goals.

Ideas for physical activity you can do with other people include:

  • Join a walking group. Walking groups are an enjoyable way to get active and provide an opportunity to socialise and meet new people.
  • Catch up with friends by walking together rather than meeting for coffee or a meal
  • Join a gym with a friend.
  • Find a park run near you.

Your local library or community centre will list local community activities that involve doing physical activity with other people.

Get active with your family

  • Play actively with your children — kick a footy around, skip, jump on the trampoline.
  • Go on a family bike ride.
  • Take your dog (or the neighbour’s dog) for a walk.
  • If possible, walk to school with your children or park further from the school and walk part of the way.
  • Buy a fitness DVD and get the whole family to join in — a great way to have a laugh and be active.

Getting active at work

  • Park further away from work (or get off public transport a few stops early). If you walk for 10 minutes to and from work, you’ll have done 20 minutes without even noticing.
  • Keep a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes at work and you will always be ready for a walk or run.
  • Go for a short walk during your lunch break.
  • Start a walking group with work colleagues or friends and stick to a routine of certain days or times to go out together.
  • If you work in an office, try to avoid long periods of sitting and get up as frequently as you can.
  • Walk the long way to the bathroom and kitchen/canteen.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020


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