physical; activity; fitness; healthy; youth; body; weight; training; steroid; stamina; endurance; aerobic; anaerobic; muscle; exercise; strength; weights; resistance; flexibity; power;
Along with healthy eating and good sleep patterns, physical activity is a vital part of keeping our bodies fit and strong. It keeps our energy levels up, helps reduce stress levels and keeps us feeling good.
We are all spending much more time sitting these days. We work and play in seats more than ever before. Many jobs are now desk jobs, replacing physical labour. And TV, computer games and DVDs have become a big part of people's spare time.
So exercise is not a part of daily life like it used to be. We now have to make an effort and factor exercise into our lives. But it doesn't have to be a chore or cost money, exercise should be fun and it can be included into your normal day.
Remember.... any movement is an improvement!
- Climb stairs instead of using lifts or escalators.
- Ride bikes or walk whenever you can. You only need to plan your day a little better and you will save money and the environment.
- Walking the dog is also a good way of improving your fitness, and your dog will love it too.
- At lunchtime, go for a walk with a friend instead of sitting down talking - you can talk while you walk. Get out into nature!
- Have a game of soccer, footy, cricket or basketball (or any other game) during your lunch break.
- Throw a ball to each other - this improves coordination and can be fun.
- Go dancing with friends.
- Cook healthy meals at home. Dancing around the kitchen and lifting heavy pots can be good exercise, you will save money on food and learn new recipes.
- Make use of whatever is around you to fit your physical activity into everyday life.
Add more to your own list - let your imagination go wild.
Benefits of being physically active
- You feel fit, energetic, strong and healthy. If you've ever suffered from a lack of energy, say after an illness such as glandular fever, you'll know how good it is to have a healthy body. Feeling fit, energetic, strong and healthy makes you feel positive about life.
- Physical activity releases endorphins - these are the body's natural "feel good" chemicals - no wonder getting physical makes you feel good!
- Physical activity reduces stress and tension, making you one relaxed person.
- Exercise can improve mental health and reduce depression. Studies have shown that 'green' or outdoor physical activity is best if you can do it.
- Exhilaration - enjoy the thrill of some activities, like climbing a rock wall or BMX racing.
- Social enjoyment, like making new friends, enjoying the fun of a social team game together, or the chatting while you walk, play tennis or bike ride together.
- Increased skills - practice means getting better at what you do.
- More physical activity means you can eat more without gaining kilos.
- Your muscles become stronger with more physical activity.
- You have a better night's sleep when you are regularly active.
- You have more energy and feel less tired.
- Being healthy means looking your glowing best - this can increase self-esteem and positive self-image.
- You can use strenuous physical activity as an effective way of reducing your anger.
- Any physical activity that involves an impact, eg walking, running, aerobics etc, helps to keep calcium in your bones, keeping them stronger for longer. This will make you stand tall and strong and help prevent osteoporosis when you're older.
- Physical activity means a strong heart and lungs - they'll last longer - and so will you! Your blood pressure and the bad cholesterol are lower, so you'll stay healthy in later years.
you haven't been active for a while?
- It may all seem like a huge effort at first, but you will be surprised to find that the more you do, the more you feel like doing. Sometimes, the hardest thing is making a start.
- Beginning a new activity with a friend can be fun, and can keep you both motivated.
- If you've been physically inactive for a long while, you may feel that you are not ready to launch into a full on fitness program. This is okay. It is better to start slowly and build up. Nothing is more likely to turn you off than overdoing it and ending up with aches and pains in every muscle (including places where you didn't even know you had muscles).
- If you are about to join a gym, ask the trainer if they can design a beginner's program for you, and make sure they will show you how to do exercises and use equipment properly.
- If you have had health problems you might want to get a check up before starting a new activity.
we mean when we talk about fitness?
When people talk about fitness, they are usually talking about three types of fitness. These are stamina, strength and flexibility.
Stamina and Endurance
Stamina or endurance usually refers to the body's ability to do physical activities for long periods of time.
Strength and Power
Physical activities that increase strength are called anaerobic activities. Anaerobic activities aim to increase physical strength, power and muscle capacity, allowing you to perform movements such as jumping and sprinting. Strong muscles also support and stabilise bone joints (such as ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and backs), reducing the risk of injury.
Resistance training is one way to improve power and strength. Examples are push ups and using light weights.
Flexibility and Suppleness
Flexibility and suppleness refers to your body's ability to perform its full range of movements without pain or restriction. If tendons and muscles become tight you are more likely to get injuries such as pulled or strained muscles and joint soreness. Gentle stretching will improve flexibility.
If you find you're spending too much time exercising or working out in a gym, you could be overdoing it. This can be harmful to your health.
Some people push drugs called steroids, saying they can make you fitter, stronger and faster.
Taking steroids is very dangerous and can lead to heart failure and damage to other vital organs, causing premature death. Steroids can have a big effect on mood (some people get very angry). Many steroids are actually designed for farm animals and racehorses, not people! It is not worth risking your life for slightly bigger muscles or getting that bit faster. Say NO if you are offered steroids!
Other performance enhancing drugs and supplements
Many drugs are illegal for sports players as they can harm the body or give someone an unfair advantage over others. Many supplements are also banned because of risks. For more information have a look at the website of Sport Medicine Australia 'Cleanedge'
right kind of physical activity for you
Any kind of regular physical activity can improve your health, fitness levels, and the way you feel about yourself. Choose activities that you enjoy, you can afford, and can fit in to your current lifestyle. There are lots of different kinds of physical activities to choose from. It is simply a matter of finding what's right for you.
- Team sports can be a great way of having fun and improving your fitness at the same time. This can be a good way of making new friends.
- Some people prefer to take up individual activities that they can do whenever and however they want, without having to rely on other people or time schedules set by clubs and gyms. Bicycle riding, swimming or walking are some of these types of activities. These can also be done with family or friends and can be part of a day out.
- There are many other activities you can do with a friend anytime. Walk together on the beach, a park or through the bush, have a game of golf or tennis, swim. Go roller blading, skate boarding, kick a ball around, or "shoot hoops".
- There are holidays built around fun activities like skiing or wild adventure type holidays where you take in white water rafting, canoeing, mountain hiking and abseiling for example. You can also get involved in these kinds of activities on a one-off basis. Look in your phone book.
- Try your local gym - most local gyms and many community centres offer organised fitness classes. Gyms often have weight equipment where you could try weight training. A word of warning here…your bones need to be fully developed to start training with weights otherwise you could cause health problems a few years down the track. You should have finished growing before using weights. Get professional advice before starting weight training.
- Community centres often offer activities such as yoga, tai chi and self defence classes.
Riding a bike is one of the easiest, safest, and most fun ways to get exercise.
- Bike riding saves you money on transport costs.
- Bike riding helps the environment.
- Riding to work or study can often be quicker than other forms of transport.
- Safety - People often feel that riding on the road is dangerous, but studies have shown that bike riding is one of the safest physical activities you can do, safer than netball and basketball! The more people that do it the safer it gets too. Just make sure you wear a helmet and obey road rules. Check out Sporting injuries to learn more.
of warming up and cooling down
It is important to do some warm up exercises before you begin any session of sport or physical activity. Warming up prepares the body for physical exertion, and reduces the chances of getting cramps or serious injuries. Walking, riding an exercise bike, gentle aerobic movements or dancing are good ways of warming up.
Cooling down properly after exercising will reduce the risk of muscle soreness or stiffness the next day. You can use the same kinds of physical activities that you used to warm up.
Stretches should also be a part of warming up and cooling down afterwards. If you watch a lot of sport, either live or on television, you have probably seen athletes stretching and loosening up before taking part in a game or event. Serious athletes aren't willing to risk pain, injury and poor performance by not preparing their bodies for increased activity, and neither should you!
- Check out local gyms and community centres in your area to find out what is available to suit your needs, available times and finances. Also be sure to find out exactly what you are getting for your money!
- If you wish to become involved in team sports, choose the sport you are interested in, and find out what is available in your area, either at social or competitive levels. Check the phone book for local clubs or organisations, ask your local council or ask friends who may already be involved in your chosen sport.
- Check out the Office for Recreation and Sport website
- Wheelchair sports SA
- Recreation Link-up - YMCA of South Australia's online recreation database. This database contains a huge range of recreational and social opportunities to explore and choose from, including: sports, arts, games and personal development activities.
Want to find out about the benefits of bike riding. Check out the Cycling Promotion Fund:
Sports Medicine Australia 'Cleanedge'
Above all - have fun getting physical.
Government of Australia 'A healthy, active Australia: information for young people'
Cycling Promotion Fund fact sheet. Cyclists live longer! Online (cited 02/2/09):
Ecotherapy – The Green Agenda for Mental Health. Mind Report, May 2007;
Bartholomew, J. et al. Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood and Well-Being in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 37(12): 2032-2037, December 2005.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).