Exercise guidelines and the associated benefits


Time and time again we are told to exercise regularly, but how many of us are actually doing that? It can be challenging to know how much exercise to be doing, how often to be doing it, and even what type of exercise to be doing. Luckily you’ve come to the right spot. This 2-part blog will summarize the current exercise guidelines and review the various benefits of exercise to help get you on-board to living an active and healthy lifestyle! Part 1 will focus on cardiorespiratory exercise while part 2 will focus on resistance training.


Cardiorespiratory exercises are exercises that increase your heart rate and rate of breathing. They generally involve the use of lots of muscle groups, including activities such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming. The main goal of cardiorespiratory exercise is to increase your body’s efficiency at delivering oxygen throughout the body (think of training for your heart and lungs).

It is recommended that adults engage in 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise on at least 5 days a week, or, 20-60 minutes of vigorous exercise at least 3 days a week. That’s a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity cardiorespiratory exercise each week. This should be accumulated in bouts of no less than 10 minutes of continuous, purposeful exercise (keep that heart pumping!).

Moderate-intensity exercise should be completed at 64-76% of your heart rate maximum (an estimate of your heart rate maximum = 220 – age). You can think of this intensity as 3-4/10: fairly light to somewhat hard. It will take some effort but you will still be able to talk while exercising. Vigorous exercise should be completed at 77-95% of your heart rate maximum, or an intensity of 5-7/10: somewhat hard to very hard. Exercising above this level would be a near maximal exertion that would be impossible to maintain for more than a few minutes (high intensity exercise utilizes a different energy source, becoming anaerobic rather than aerobic). For the general population, moderate-intensity exercise could be considered a brisk walk, while vigorous would become more of a jog or a run.

If you’re short on time, you can combine the two: 10 minutes of vigorous exercise is equivalent to 20 minutes of moderate exercise. The more you challenge yourself, the greater the training effect (based on the principle of overload, you need to sufficiently challenge yourself to improve your fitness). There is a dose-response relationship between activity levels and health outcomes, such that the more active you are the greater the health benefit.

So what are the benefits?

Sounding good so far? Inactivity is the on of the highest modifiable risk factors for disease prevention; yet more than 50% of Australians are insufficiently active. Challenge yourself to be active on a daily basis! If you aren’t usually active, ease into it. Gradually increase how much you are doing each week. Doing something is better than doing nothing, and will still provide benefit.

The last thing to consider is how much time you spend being sedentary or seated. Regardless of how active you are everyone will benefit from sitting less. Prolonged sitting is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, independent of time spent being physically active. Interrupting prolonged periods of sitting with short-bouts of standing or activity helps to improve metabolism and decrease negative health outcomes. Try to regularly break-up long periods of sitting by standing up for a quick stretch or going for a short walk.

Bottom line: Lets get moving!