Spring into fitness — safely

Spring into fitnessThere’s no doubt the warmer weather, and the impending beach season is good motivation to take up a regular exercise regime.

But are you exercising safely?


How much exercise do we need?

After emerging from the pile of blankets you’ve been hiding under during winter, usually a few kilos heavier, it can be tempting to start a gruelling exercise plan, in a bid to lose the winter weight. But overdoing it could increase your risk of injury.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines state that we should:

  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week
  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.


Benefits of exercise

Many of us make the mistake of seeing exercise as a way to shed unwanted weight. And while exercise does help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, its benefits go beyond weight loss. Regular exercise leads to:

  • Increased muscle mass: The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism; which means it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increased muscle strength: This is important for balance and reduces your risk of injury.
  • Improved bone strength: The stronger your bones, the less risk of osteoporosis.
  • Healthy immune system: When your immune system is strong, you are less likely to get sick.
  • Decreased risk of chronic disease: Your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are reduced.
  • Better energy levels: You will experience increased energy levels.
  • Reduced stress levels: You will be less stressed.
  • Improved sleep: Your sleep quality will improve.


Start out slowly

If it has been a while in between workouts, you need to start out slowly and gradually build up to the recommended amount. That means walking before you begin running; engaging in low-impact activities before you start high-impact activities; and lifting light weights before you graduate to heavy ones.

If you are overweight or have a pre-existing health condition, you should also seek the advice of your health practitioner.


active aprilStay safe

The whole point of exercise is to improve your health. So with that in mind, it’s worth considering the following safety tips:

  • Invest in shoes that will support your foot appropriately for the activity you will be undertaking.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, preferably clothing that will wick sweat away from your body.
  • Ensure you warm up and cool down correctly.
  • Stretch all the muscle groups properly.
  • Stay hydrated, particularly during warm or hot weather.
  • Apply sunscreen and wear a hat if exercising outdoors.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition, and eat food that will fuel your body. Don’t be tempted to starve yourself in a bid to lose weight quickly.
  • Enlist the help of a qualified personal trainer or exercise physiologist if you are unsure of how to perform specific exercises, or need assistance in developing an exercise program for your goals.
  • Stop if you feel pain of any kind.

Spring is a great time to get off the couch, get moving again and experience the great outdoors. But remember, ease into it gently and build your activity levels up gradually. Before you know it, exercise will be a normal, healthy part of your lifestyle.


The Write Way to Health blog is part of the portfolio of Write to the Point Communications.

Melbourne health writer & blogger, copywriter & editor, researcher extraordinaire.
Delivering high-quality health writing with exceptional customer service.


Exercise…the right way!


Exercise Right Week 2016Our bodies are designed to move. Regular exercise and movement should be a natural part of our lifestyle. Unfortunately, more than half of all Australian adults are not active enough.

Exercise has many benefits for our health, including

  • Weight loss and/or healthy weight management: Regular exercise helps lose extra kilos, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight
  • Increased muscle mass: This leads to a higher metabolism making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. It also improves your overall strength
  • Better appearance: Being fit, lean and healthy looks better than someone who doesn’t. And your clothes will also fit better!
  • Healthy immune system: A stronger immune system means you are less likely to get sick
  • Improved bone strength: This is really important to reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Decreased risk of chronic disease: You significantly reduce your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • Better energy levels: Regular exercise leads to increased energy levels, meaning you get more out of life
  • Reduced stress levels: Exercise leads to less stress
  • Improved sleep: Regular exercise promotes better quality sleep.


How much should you do?

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none.

If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.

The current recommendations state that all Australian adults should be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Furthermore, we should aim to:

  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.


How do you start?

Everyone is unique and has their own goals and challenges. That’s why a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work.

If you haven’t been active in a while or are currently living with health challenges or injuries, it is wise to speak to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can design a program suited to your particular situation.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists are allied health professionals who work in many settings. They hold a four-year equivalent university degree and specialise in the exercise and movement for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.

They are able to help people with:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Mental health conditions
  • Cancer and cancer treatment recovery
  • Chronic pain and fatigue
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Neuromuscular exercise therapy
  • Pulmonary disease, and more.

They can also help you identify the right professional to work with, where you should exercise (i.e. a gym, pool), and what time of the day will suit you best.


Exercise Right Week

From 23 to 29 May 2016, Australia celebrates Exercise Right Week. If you’re not exercising enough, why not take this opportunity to get off the couch and into exercise.

Visit Exercise Right (http://exerciseright.com.au/) to take the Exercise Right Quiz, and to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

There are so many benefits to regular exercise, so change your life and get moving today.

Further information

Exercise Right

Healthy and Active Australia Exercise Guidelines

Exercise your way to a healthy heart

Exercise for a healthy heartAccording to statistics, every 26 minutes, an Australian loses their life to heart disease. That’s 55 Australians every day or around 20,046 people a year.

Heart disease — also known as Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) refers to an inadequate supply of blood flowing to the heart.

This is a serious condition which can lead to angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

Arteries which take blood to the heart can become blocked with a build-up of deposits such as cholesterol, fibrous tissue and calcification. These deposits harden and cause the arteries to narrow. This process is called atherosclerosis.

The good news is that YOU can do a lot to protect the health of your heart. One of the most important is getting regular exercise.

How exercise helps your heart

According to the Heart Foundation, regular exercise is important for:

  • preventing heart disease
  • reducing your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke
  • rehabilitation after a heart attack
  • reducing stress, depression and anxiety, which are risk factors for heart disease
  • weight control (overweight and obesity are risks for heart disease).

How much exercise?

The Heart Foundation recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. This can be in 30-minute blocks or even three 10-minute blocks. The aim should be to build up to a total of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity every week.

Exercise for a healthy heartWhat type of exercise?

All physical activity is great, but for heart health, moderate activity is recommended. Moderate intensity will cause you to feel warmer (maybe even sweat), breathe harder and raise your heart rate. However, you should still be able to talk.

Some great ideas for activity include walking, tennis, dancing, gardening, cycling, swimming, team sports and even housework and work around the yard.

However, if you have a health problem or have not exercised for a while, it’s wise to get the all-clear from your GP before embarking on a program.

So get up off the couch and get your heart pumping for good health.

Further information

Heart Foundation

Can music really help your workouts?

IMG_4744Whether you like lifting weights, attending a boxing class or going for a run, chances are you are listening to music while you work out. But does your choice of music just make exercise more fun, or can it actually improve your workout?

Numerous studies indicate that music does have an impact on workouts, and can actually lead to greater work output.

For example, a study involving 12 college students riding stationery bikes was published in 2010. The subjects rode the bikes while listening to six different songs played at their normal tempo. The songs were then played 10 per cent faster and 10 per cent slower. When the tempo of the music increased so did the pedalling. When the music slowed down, pedaling also slowed down, indicating that music influenced the rate at which they were pedaling.

So how does this compute in the real world?

It seems that the rhythm (the tempo) of the music is the most important factor when it comes to the motivational factor.

When engaging in moderate to intense exercise, music with a tempo of between 125-140 beats per minute (bpm) is what works best, particularly if the rhythm is in time with some of the movements of the exercise (e.g. boxing or kickboxing).

But it’s not just the tempo that influences whether we work harder or not. When a piece of music has some kind of meaning for you, or has an emotional story attached to it, then you are more likely to work harder. For example, the theme from Rocky or Hall of Fame, which was used to promote Australian television coverage of the Winter Olympics.

So if you want to get more out of your workout, perhaps look at the type of music you are listening to.

For some great ideas on workout music (including details of bpm), visit www.runhundred.com

For a more in-depth look at how music can motivate and enhance performance, read Fitness Australia’s article “Move to the Music


Costas I, Karageorghis & Priest, D, 2012, ‘Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part I),International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 44-66

Costas I, Karageorghis & Priest, D 2012, ‘Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part II), International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 67-84.

Don’t fall for fad diets and gimmicks

When you want to lose weight quickly, or you know you have overdone the eating (think Easter and Christmas), it can be very tempting to go on a ‘diet’ to lose the flab.dear diet

While these may have immediate effects (e.g. you lose ‘weight’), most of this weight is water, not fat. Following fad diets may cause a whole host of other programs such as:

  • Muscle loss
  • Slower metabolism (which leads to long-term weight gain)
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and light-headedness
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

Statistics show that most people who embark on a ‘weight-loss’ program regain everything they lose, plus more, within two years.

So here are some tips on recognising a ‘diet’ that may do more harm than good.

Yo-yo dieting and skipping meals

When you engage in yo-yo dieting (losing weight and gaining it back and losing it again, etc.) — often through reducing your kilojoule intake or skipping meals — your body responds to these periods of semi-starvation by lowering its metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns up energy. When you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle. You don’t want to lose muscle as it burns kilojoules, whereas fat doesn’t.

This is why, when you come off the ‘diet’ and eat normally again, your body burns fewer kilojoules than before because your metabolic rate is slower. This can lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which does not lead to long-term weight loss.

Restriction diets

Any diet that advises excluding whole food groups or foods is not healthy. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we eat a balanced diet, consuming foods from each of the five major food groups each day — fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy. You should avoid any diet that prohibits one or more food groups.

Low-carb or no carb diets

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for our body. While it’s not recommended that you eat carbohydrates high in fat and sugar (e.g. cakes, biscuits and pastries), there are some carbs that are good for you — whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa, etc. It’s also important to realise that fruits and veggies are also good sources of carbs.

Diet pills and creams

There is no scientific evidence that proves diet pills work. Diet pills are full of artificial ingredients, which are not likely to be good for you long term. Similarly, there is no ‘magic’ cream or lotion to help you lose weight.

Meal replacements

While there may be a place for these (under the medical supervision of your doctor), meal replacements overall, are not a good choice. While a few are formulated by government guidelines, with appropriate levels of vitamins, minerals, fibre, omega-3s and more, others are lacking in key nutrients and are not nutritionally complete. Using these does not teach you the importance of making your own healthy food choices, learning to prepare healthy meals, and developing an active lifestyle. Usually, once you stop using meal-replacements, weight regain occurs.

Exercise machines

Our bodies are designed to move, and moving them through regular exercise is the healthy way to lose fat. Simply targeting muscle areas, particularly through machines (also called ‘spot reducing’) will not lead to real fat loss.

Pre-made meals

A program of pre-made meals is not necessarily a gimmick, but you do run the risk of gaining back any lost weight, as you have not learnt to control portion sizes, nor learn to cook your own healthy meals. While it may be convenient, these programs are likely to be more expensive than making your own food. They also do not help you change your lifestyle, which led to the weight gain in the first place.

How can you lose fat?

The secret to losing fat is to make lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes that lead to healthy, long-term and sustainable weight loss include:

  • Eating a balanced diet which includes all food groups (carbohydrate, protein, dairy, wholegrain, fruit and vegetables)
  • Limiting highly processed foods, and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar
  • Limiting portion sizes
  • Drinking 6-8 glasses (1 ½ – 2 litres of water) each day
  • Reducing your alcohol consumption
  • Increasing your movement (i.e. exercise), to 30 minutes on most, if not every day.

If you feel you need to lose some weight, forget about the quick and easy fix, as there is no such thing. Instead, speak to your doctor, or visit a qualified dietitian for some expert advice on getting started.


Further information:

Dietitians Association of Australia

Australian Guide to Healthy Eating


Get active in April

Premier's Active AprilThis April all Victorians are invited to get more active.

The Premier’s Active April campaign is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to promote healthy and active lifestyles and get Victorians more active, more often!

Research has shown that regular physical activity can:

  •          Reduce your risk of a heart attack
  •          Lower your blood cholesterol
  •          Lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  •          Lower your blood pressure
  •          Increase the strength of your bones
  •          Help you maintain a healthy weight
  •          Lead to better sleep
  •          Lead to increased happiness and energy levels.

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days.

In it’s sixth year, Active April challenges all Victorians to get at least 30 minutes of activity every day during the month of April.

Want to participate?

It’s easy. Simply log onto https://www.activeapril.vic.gov.au/ and register your details. You can register as an individual, a family, a team or a school. Simply by registering, you are eligible for some fabulous offers and have a chance to win some great prizes.

By logging your activity into the Active April app, you can keep track of how well you are going.

active aprilThe Active April website is filled with tips on getting your activity in each day, along with a list of events you can participate in.

And the best part about it, is that it’s free.

Don’t live in Victoria? That’s no excuse!

Why not run your own Active April. Grab your family or some mates and make a commitment to be active for 30 minutes each day of April. You’ll be doing something positive for your health and happiness.

Further details:

Premier’s Active April

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines