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Low levels of physical activity are a major risk factor for ill health and mortality from all causes. People who do not do sufficient physical activity have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancers, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Being physically active improves mental and musculoskeletal health and reduces other risk factors such as overweighthigh blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

More information on the importance of physical activity is available in the reports Getting Australia Active and Getting Australia Active II (published by the National Public Health Partnership in 2002 and 2004 respectively). These documents are available from the NPHP.

How much is enough?

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommend that Australians put together at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. For extra health and fitness, the guidelines recommend enjoying some regular, vigorous exercise as well.

Go to Risk factors FAQ for information on measuring participation in physical activity.

Further information

How many Australians are insufficiently active?

The National Physical Activity Survey reports against the levels of leisure-time physical activity recommended to achieve health benefits (called sufficient physical activity here). Sufficient activity to obtain a health benefit is defined as the accrual of at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of at least moderate-intensity physical activity over at least five sessions in the week before interview.

Data from the 2000 National Physical Activity Survey showed:

  • Over 7 million Australians aged 18-75 years (54%) did not undertake sufficient physical activity to obtain a health benefit. Over 2 million of these (15% of people aged 18-75 years) were sedentary, that is they did no physical activity in their leisure-time.
  • Overall, men and women were equally likely to participate at sufficient levels of activity for health benefits (46% and 45%). Younger people were more likely to undertake sufficient physical activity.

The Active Australia Survey

The Active Australia Survey is designed to measure participation in leisure-time physical activity and to assess knowledge of current public health messages about the health benefits of physical activity. See The Active Australia Survey: a guide and manual for implementation, analysis and reporting for more information.