Fitness is about improving your health and wellbeing as well as your physical abilities. Anyone can improve their fitness – you don't have to be into competitive sport or do it in public. It also doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
To maintain your health and reduce any risk of health problems, the Australian Government recommends:
- 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day for young people aged 12 to 17
- 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity each week – or a combination of both – for young people aged 18 to 25.
The Benefits of Improving Your Fitness
The best way to approach improving your fitness is to do it for your own reasons. Exercising regularly can improve your fitness and also help you:
- develop more energy
- feel better about yourself
- manage stress
- look healthier
- manage your weight
- improve your mental health
- meet new people
- live longer.
You can find out more about the benefits of regular exercise at the Better Health Channel's Physical Activity page.
Ways to Keep Fit – Picking an Activity
There are lots of activities you can do to get fit (or fitter), and there are lots of ways to do it, including:
- on your own (for example, walking, running or swimming)
- with friends (for example, bushwalking or rollerblading)
- as part of everyday life (for example, walking or cycling)
- with a group or club (for example, netball, soccer, martial arts or basketball)
- by attending group exercise classes (for example, spin classes, kick-boxing, dancing).
Think about what kind of activities you enjoy and pick something that suits your lifestyle.
- Don’t choose an outdoor activity if you're bothered by weather extremes such as heat or cold.
- Don’t pick an activity just because you think it would be good for you – you've got to also enjoy it.
- Think about physical activities you enjoyed as a child (like cycling or netball) and give that activity another try.
- Keep your budget in mind and decide whether you can afford expensive equipment or pay for regular classes and memberships.
- Be realistic about your current health and level of fitness – if you're a beginner you need to start slow.
- Choose a couple of activities – you might get bored and lose motivation if you stick to only one kind of activity.
Sports Medicine Australia's Active Women in Sport factsheets have information is aimed at all women. They have good general advice and with comprehensive overviews and well worth checking out.
If you're interested in a particular sport, Sport and Recreation Victoria has a list of Victorian sporting organisations that links to their website where you can find out more about how you can get involved.
Sport for People with a Disability
If you're a person with a disability, Access for All Abilities can work with you to identify a sport or activity that you want to get involved in, and then hook you up with the right club, organisation and association to help you out.
To get in touch, just call them on 1800 AAA VIC (1800 222 842) or fill in an enquiry form on the Access for All Abilities website.
The Gym Thing
Some people find regular visits to a gym or fitness centre really enjoyable, and attending regularly is a great way of improving fitness and health. They tap into advantages such as:
- advice and guidance from qualified instructors
- having an exercise program developed to meet individual needs
- access to other programs such as classes and facilities like a pool or sauna
- being in an environment where other people are focused on fitness
- making an exercise routine a habit through regular gym visits
- gym or fitness centre programs and membership don't always suit everyone.
Disadvantages can include:
- feeling self-conscious or not really getting into the atmosphere
- not having time or transport to regularly get to the gym
- having good intentions at the start that fall away
- getting bored with the programs
- wasting money if you don't make full use of facilities or sign up for a fixed period of time and then stop going.
If you are thinking of joining a gym or fitness centre, give yourself time to shop around and try places on a casual basis before signing up. The same applies to any type of exercise or movement class
The Better Health Channel's page on fitness centres and gyms is a great place to find out more info and to find a suitable one in your area.
Don't Overdo It
Just as your body will benefit from regular exercise, it also benefits when you give it time to recover from activity. A proper exercise program should always include a warm up and time to cool down. This will:
- improve your performance
- reduce the risk of injury
- help your body to recover from the strain of your activity.
It's also important to make sure that the activity or sport you do uses a range of muscle groups so that you don't overuse one set of muscles and hurt yourself.
Overtraining is a situation in which people exercise too much and too often in the mistaken belief that the more exercise you do, the better and healthier you become. In fact, overtraining can have the opposite result and negatively affect your health.
Over Training can sometimes be related to negative feelings about the way that you look and the idea that if you're fitter and buffer these feelings will go away. To find out more about this issue, and where you can get help, check out our Body Image page.
Better Health Channel - Keeping Active
Includes advice and information about finding a fitness centre, kinds of exercise to consider, how to start (and stay) active and how to exercise safely.
Sport and Recreation Victoria
Check out the Young Women in Sport section for a good overview of a range of different sports and info on how you can get involved. You can also find a listing of all sporting organisations in Victoria.
Access for All Abilities
A first-point-of call service connecting people with a disability to sports and recreational opportunities in Melbourne.