Why move more?
Moving more - or active living - makes us feel good, whether it's going for a walk, a run, cycling, playing a sport, gardening or dancing.
Active living means participating in regular physical activity, sitting less and moving more. Together with healthy eating, doing all we can to move more can lower our risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers, and help us to have a healthy bodyweight.
It's great for our health to discover an activity we enjoy and that suits our level of fitness - at the very least, one that helps us sit less!
Regular physical activity helps by:
improving posture and balance
keeping bones and muscles strong, and joints flexible
improving sleep and relaxation
reducing the risks of heart disease, obesity, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and falls.
How intense does physical activity need to be?
An activity's intensity is about how hard the body is working.
Light intensity activity includes common daily tasks that take little effort but still use up some energy.
Moderate intensity activity causes a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate, but you can still carry on a conversation. Moderate activities include brisk walking, dancing or actively playing with children.
Vigorous intensity activity makes you out of breath – you can't do these activities and chat at the same time. Vigorous activities include running, biking uphill, or playing sport.
People who have been inactive, or who have a health condition, should check with a health practitioner to find appropriate activities for them.
How much physical activity should you do?
Physical activity doesn't have to be done all at once - we can 'snack' on activity, doing it in bursts through the day.
The Ministry of Health recommends adults:
be as active as possible
put together at least 2½ hours of moderate, or 1¼ hours of vigorous, physical activity spread throughout the week.
Want more guidance? See the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Eating, Active Living advice booklet for adults.
Why sit less?
Modern life is becoming increasingly mechanised and computerised, so we tend to spend more time sitting.
It’s estimated most adults spend half to almost two-thirds (51-68%) of their lives sitting down. And that's just not healthy - research shows sitting too much isn't good for our physical or mental wellbeing.
Even people who meet physical activity recommendations (at least 2½ hours of moderate, or 1¼ hours of vigorous, physical activity spread throughout the week) can still be at risk of developing health conditions linked to sitting too much, especially if they sit down to work.
But if we do what we can to sit less, we can improve our health by:
a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers
improved weight management
improved mental wellbeing and reduced stress
reduced risk of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.
Australia's VicHealth has released several reports on workplace wellbeing, including a report into the effects of prolonged sitting at work, and how to reduce it. These reports are available for download at VicHealth's website.
Small steps, every day
Sitting less is about viewing any movement as an opportunity not an inconvenience.
It’s about being as active as possible whenever we can. And most of these – taking the stairs, holding a walking or standing meeting – are absolutely free.
Even just standing up helps. You could choose to stand on the bus or train to work, or stand up from your desk and stretch, or stand whenever talking on the phone.
Want more guidance? See the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Eating, Active Living advice booklet for adults, or this Eat Healthy Food and Move More Every Day brochure.
Moving more and mental wellbeing
Being active is one of the Mental Health Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing to better mental health.
Research shows a strong link between physical activity and increased mental wellbeing, including lower rates of depression and anxiety.
Move more, feel good
Moving more can lift our mood and reduce stress. It can reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem and the ability to cope with difficult situations. It can also reduce the risk of depression.
These are all good things when it comes to protecting your team’s wellbeing.
Research is continuing into which kind of activity, and how much, is best for mental health. However, we do know it doesn’t have to be done in one hit or be vigorous to be beneficial.
In fact, we can boost our mental wellbeing from single bursts of less than 10 minutes. Just a quick brisk walk can be enough to improve our mental alertness, energy and mood.