How To Get Your 150 Minutes Of Exercise A Week - By Heather McFarlane (Exercise Physiologist)

The Australian physical activity guidelines recommend adults aged 18-69 years perform moderate intensity exercise, for at least 30 minutes a day (5 days/week) or 150 minutes a week, to stay healthy. These guidelines promoted by the Australian Government, Department of Health, have been set to reflect the current scientific evidence from international research that links physical activity and exercise with improved health and chronic disease prevention.

What is moderate intensity exercise?

Moderate intensity is the level of exertion when you notice your breath quickens, and you can feel your heart rate increase.  You could have a conversation while exercising at this level, but you’d generally have to use shorter sentences.

If you want to be a bit more technical, you can monitor your exercise intensity by using your heart rate.  Moderate intensity is classified as 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.  You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. (220 – age = HRmax) Divide that number by 50% and then again by 70% to calculate the upper and lower limits for your moderate intensity heart rate zone.  Try and keep your heart rate within this zone during your session to ensure you are exercising at a moderate intensity.

What if we can’t find time, the ability, or the energy for 150 minutes of exercise every week?
A weekly goal of 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) can be divided up any way you like, whichever way you can fit it in.  We could say we recommend 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week, but a lot of people feel constricted by this and say a weekly target gives more flexibility.  You might prefer three 50 minute exercise classes, or perhaps short (15 min) walks while on your lunch break and a long (75 min) bush walk on the weekend fits better with your schedule. 

We can also consider some of our day-to-day activities as exercise as well.  Researchers have developed a catalogue of physical activities called the Compendium of Physical Activity.  This document includes an intensity rating for all our daily chores, work duties, hobbies, types of exercise and physical activities.  If you can’t find the time (or inclination) for exercise, you might be able to find time for moderate intensity activities such as fishing/hunting, vacuuming/mopping the floors, gardening, bathing the dog or some active play with the kids.  It doesn’t matter what activity you choose, as long as it’s classed moderate intensity, it’s all equal.

Nevertheless, exercising can be a real struggle.  The pursuit can be an on-going endeavour of scheduling, organising, prioritising, convincing and motivating, and managing your injuries and health.  However, the is good news is we are now seeing research that suggests that any movement is beneficial.  A set of exercises prescribed for injury rehabilitation, a gentle morning stretch regime, or a ten-minute walk around the yard is definitely better than nothing.  These types of short bouts may not be able to achieve dramatic weight loss or muscle gain but it can have immediate effects on our health and chronic diseases by improving blood glucose control and sleep quality, reducing pain, blood pressure or anxiety level. 

Before You Start:

It is best to see your GP or an exercise physiologist before starting any exercise programme if you:

  • Are over the age of 45

  • Have been diagnosed with/ or think you may have a heart condition or have experienced a stroke

  • Experience chest pain during activity or at rest

  • Experience unusual shortness of breath or have required emergency assistance due to asthma in the past 12 months

  • Experience dizziness during exercise that cause you to lose balance

  • Have had difficulty controlling your blood glucose level in the last 3 months

  • Suffer from muscle, bone or joint problems that could be made worse from exercise

These statements are a screening tool to identify any medical conditions that may increase the risk of experiencing a health problem during exercise.  Identifying with any of these statements does not mean exercise is impossible but certain precautions and limitations may be recommended.

The physical activity guidelines are recommendations for healthy individuals to stay healthy.  If you consider yourself healthy and have not exercised for several years or even several months, start at light-moderate intensity level and build your intensity gradually.  Remember that 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is a goal, not a starting point. Sometimes it is not suitable for an individual to be exercising at a moderate intensity due to chronic health problems such as cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and respiratory conditions. 

If you are unsure if moderate intensity exercise is safe, or you feel you need a little more assistance to achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, make an appointment to see us.  At Health and Hearts’ our exercise physiologists have knowledge in exercise, health and chronic disease.  We can educate you on the benefits of exercise, establish a safe and effective programme, assist you to manage your health conditions during exercise and provide you with the tools for on-going motivation. 

Let’s get moving!

By Heather McFarlane

Exercise Physiologist & Owner of Health & Hearts Exercise Physiology Clinic, Mackay

Ph: 4957 7997  (Referrals are not required.)

For more reading:

The Compendium of Physical Activity

Exercise Right

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines