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5 golden rules to increase activity 

Where do I start with activity and what should I expect? 

Sometimes the thought of being more active is even tiring just to think about…

However, if you have decided to become more active – that’s great! Making this decision is an important step to becoming a healthier and happier person.

Being more active can lead to positive benefits such as:

  • Better sleep, waking feeling refreshed and ready for the day
  • Improved mental health – less anxious thoughts!
  • Greater ability to join in activities with your friends and family
  • Decreased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease

OK, I have not been very active lately, so where do I start?

Five golden rules:

  1. Take it slowly – don’t jump in too fast.
  2. Think long-term
  3. Don’t forget about incidental activity
  4. Do things you enjoy and get support from others
  5. Plan for activity

1. Take it slowly but make a commitment!

Evidence shows that if you launch into a full ‘exercise’ program straight away, you not only risk feeling sore and tired, but you are also more likely to give up. Build up your activity levels over time – this will also help you to make the changes to your lifestyle more permanent.

So, take it slowly! Depending on how active you are currently, introduce one or two smaller changes over the next week. For example, for someone trying to become more active, why not invite a friend to grab a takeaway coffee with you and walk around a park instead of meeting at the café?

2. Think long-term

Forget the quick fixes! While exercising in the short-term can make you feel good, most components of fitness, take time to develop (e.g., 3 months+)*. This could range from building routines and habits, to seeing an increase in your cardio and strength capabilities.

That’s why, if you are looking for sustained changes to your fitness leading to lifelong health benefits, select activities:

  • that you enjoy
  • that can be incorporated easily into your own lifestyle, and
  • you can see yourself continuing over time.

So, how much activity should I aim to do? The Australian Government has guidelines (specific to age groups) to help guide how much activity you should be doing. If you’re an adult, you should aim to be active every day and do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. It’s also recommended muscle strengthening activity at least twice a week.

Think about your own lifestyle – what activities could you do that you would enjoy and could continue building on to make them lifelong habits?

3. Don’t forget about incidental activity

Becoming more active does not mean you have to start jogging or going to a gym. You can begin slowly by incorporating incidental activity into your day, such as parking a little further from work than usual and walking the rest of the way or walking around a shopping centre rather than doing online shopping! Think about small ways you can incorporate activity in your everyday life.

4. Do things you enjoy and get support from others

Enjoy yourself! It’s more likely you’ll continue your activity if you do things you enjoy. Don’t like to run? Then consider swimming. Love the social side of team games? Then join a local community sport team.

If you have friends or family that you can invite to be active with, it is more likely that you will continue and feel supported.

5. Plan for activity

Set yourself a plan for the next week – achievable, small tasks you can build on – this might include things such as: I will go for two 15-minute walks with the dog or I will walk to school with the kids.  HINT: if possible, stick your plan on your fridge or somewhere visible as a reminder/motivator.

When planning, consider the things that might get in your way. For example, you might get busy at work, or it might start raining when you have planned a walk. Have a backup plan ready – for example, if it rains, I will do an indoor workout instead.


* Sharkey B and Gaskill S. Fitness and Health 7th Edn, Human Kinetics 2013

Last updated: September 22, 2023 at: 4:58 pm