Fitness and exercise

By December 7, 2017Blog

Cycling tips for beginners

Cycling is a truly invigorating and liberating experience, enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Whether you’re cycling to work, to school, to the shops or just for fun, the humble bicycle is an easy way to get more active.therapy laser watch

Regular cycling can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetesand stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.

This guide is designed to make cycling a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and provide you with tips on staying motivated.

Before you start

For most people, cycling is a safe and effective form of exercise. If you have any health concerns or an existing medical problem, see your doctor before you start.therapy laser watch

For short journeys, any good working bike will do. You might have an old shopping bike or a bargain mountain bike that you could use.

A 30-minute ride will count towards your recommended weekly activity target.

If you’re buying a second-hand bike or you have an old bike that’s been gathering dust, consider having it serviced at a specialist bike shop to ensure it’s roadworthy.

If you’re buying a new bike, there are many models to choose from. Hybrids, road bikes and mountain bikes are the most popular.

A specialist bike shop will advise you on the correct frame size and help you select a bike to suit your budget and the type of cycling you want to do.therapy laser watch

There are also bikes available for people with disabilities.

Remember, wearing a bicycle helmet is compulsory in Australia.

Starting out

If you haven’t cycled much before or you’re out of the habit of cycling, find yourself a traffic-free area to start off in, such as your local park.therapy laser watch

Practise riding single-handed so you can make hand signals, and get comfortable looking, over both shoulders to improve your visual awareness. Some people prefer to attach a small mirror to their bike’s handelbars or helmet to help them see what’s behind them.

Before you start cycling in traffic, check the road rules and regulations for cyclists.

For health benefits, adults and older adults are recommended to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

Children and young people are recommended to do at least one hour (60 minutes) of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every day.therapy laser watch

A 30-minute ride, where your breathing is quicker and deeper, will count towards your recommended weekly activity target.

If you’re just getting started, take it slowly and increase your cycle rides gradually. Any improvement on what you currently do is beneficial.

Ensure you stop and seek medical advice if you are feeling unwell.

Staying motivated

Make it a habit

The easiest way to ensure you cycle regularly is to use your bike as a means of everyday transport. If you want some company on your bike ride, whether it’s to work or just for fun, find a cycling pal.therapy laser watch

Cycle to work

Commuting by bike is cheap, green and one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your routine. Ask your office manager or human resources representative if there are showers and bike storage available.

Cycle to school

Riding to school is a great way to get the kids more active. Cycling has many benefits for children such as improved health, confidence and concentration. Parents may want to accompany younger children, which makes it a good way for grown-ups to get cycling too.therapy laser watch

Mix it up

There are many places to cycle in cities and the countryside. Cycling is an ideal way for friends and families to explore their neighbourhood and beyond.

Join a bike ride

From charity rides to park cycles, signing up for a bike ride is a great way to stay motivated and experience the great outdoors.

Health benefits of swimming

Swimming is a healthy, low-impact activity that has many physical and mental health benefits.

Why is swimming good for me?

Swimming is a low impact form of exercise that is accessible to people of all ages. It provides a great cardiovascular workout as well as a workout for the whole body including the arms, back and shoulders.

Swimming is also an activity that can assist people of any age with their asthma; however, if you have asthma you should discuss swimming with your doctor before diving into any strenuous pool activities.

When should children learn to swim?

While there are a few different guidelines and opinions on when children should learn to swim, the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA) recommends that infants can start a formal program at four months of age. This gives the infant enough time to allow a medical history to develop, their immune system to strengthen and bonding to occur with the primary caretaker.

Learning to swim, and being confident and familiar with water, is important for everyone. Swimming skills, particularly among children, are fundamental to every individual’s safety to ensure they have the ability to survive in and around the water.

Being confident and familiar with water is important for everyone.

Even if children are confident in the water, proper adult supervision should never be overlooked. Thirty-five children between the ages of 0-14 drowned in Australia between July 2014 and June 2015. Swimming pools were the leading location for drowning in this age group and most drownings occurred after the child fell into water. Bathing claimed the lives of three children in 2014/15.therapy laser watch

Research shows that kids who swim are smarter! Researchers from Griffith Institute for Educational Research found young children who participated in early-years swimming achieved a wide range of skills earlier than the normal population.

Can children with special needs benefit from swimming?

Absolutely. Swimming can help children with special needs have fun in a non-competitive environment while providing vital water-survival skills. It’s also an activity that their parents and siblings can take part in as well.

Water-based activities are also fantastic for visually impaired children because they can learn about body image and space by using concrete reference points such as the water level or the side of the pool. The water also offers intensive sensory stimulation for children with multiple disabilities which other environments cannot provide.

What is the difference between a swimming teacher and a swimming coach?

A qualified swimming and safety teacher focuses on teaching basic water skills such as how to get in and out of the water in a variety of locations. They also teach the different swimming strokes. Swimming coaches assist swimmers who already have the basic water skills to swim further, faster and better through strategies such as improving their competitive stroke styles and training techniques.

How can I participate in competitive swimming?

Swimmers must belong to a swimming club to compete at competitions. To find a swimming club in Australia go to Most swimming clubs offer training sessions up to six days a week in the morning and evening. The amount of training depends on the person’s swimming ability and age.

The benefits of being a part of a swimming club include socialisation, overall fitness, organisational and time management skills and personal rewards as swimmers reach goals such as achieving personal best times in competitions.

Can I participate in competitive swimming as an adult?

Yes. Masters Swimming Australia offers competitive swimming for adults from 18 years to 99 years in both swimming pools and in open water. They also offer programs such as the Endurance 1000 which is designed to encourage people to compete in distances from 400m up to 60 minutes duration in a variety of strokes. You can contact Masters Swimming Australia at

What if I don’t want to swim laps in a pool or do competitive swimming?

Following the black line isn’t the only option. There are lots of recreational swimming activities that can happen in a pool such as aqua aerobics. This is a fantastic activity for all age groups especially the over 50s because it’s great for the heart and easy on the joints.

Water games, such as Marco Polo or Pool Tag Survivor, are also great ways to enjoy the water, build children’s swimming skills and help them develop a healthy respect for the water including its dangers. For the rules of these games and others go to Swim and Survive.

Recreational swimming is also a low-cost, relaxing, low-impact activity that gives the body an all over workout.

How do I get started, and keep swimming?

Simply contact a swimming organisation and find out what works for you and your lifestyle. It’s easy to start with a bang and end with a fizz, so set some goals such as working up to swimming five laps of an Olympic size pool without stopping, then move the goal posts as you improve!

What do I need to know about swimming in the ocean?

More than 80% of Australians live near the coast, and swimming in the ocean is a part of our national identity. Tragically, there were 55 drowning deaths on surf beaches, and 33 drowning deaths in the ocean or a harbour, from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

There are also a number of risks associated with swimming in the ocean including:

  • dangerous waves (plunging, dumping and surging waves)
  • being caught in a rip current
  • tide movements, especially when it is going out
  • spinal injuries caused by being dumped headfirst by a wave, diving head first into the water or jumping off rocks and hitting submerged objects other than the sea floor

To make sure you stay safe when swimming in the ocean, you should:

  • always swim between the red and yellow flags
  • read the safety signs
  • ask a lifeguard for safety advice
  • swim with a friend
  • stay calm and attract attention if you need help.

How to start exercising

The saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is a myth. Some activity is better than none, and more is better than a little, but you don’t have to exercise to the point of collapse to get a health benefit.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.

Some helpful tips to get started

  • Make time to be physically active and schedule it as you would an appointment.
  • Set a date for when you will start. Write the date down and stick to it.
  • Make an activity planner so you can put the times and days you will do each activity.
  • Set short-term and long-term goals. Make your goals specific, measurable and achievable. Rather than a vague goal like ‘I will get fit’, try ‘I will walk every day for 10 minutes after meals’ or ‘I will get on and off the bus/train two stops away from my usual stop’.
  • Build up gradually. If you are starting a new activity or have been inactive for some time, start at a level that you can manage easily and gradually build up.
  • Choose activities that are right for you. Do something that you enjoy or go for something different you’ve always wanted to try, such as walking, jogging, joining a team sport, taking a group fitness class, dancing and swimming.
  • Plan physical activity with others. This can help you stick to your plan and achieve your goals.
  • Join a walking group. Walking groups are an enjoyable way to get active and provide an opportunity to socialise and meet new people.
  • Get back on your bike with AustCycle. AustCycle provides cyclingcourses for people who want to ride bikes for recreation and transport. Courses are run by trained teachers who help participants improve their riding skills and safety, and encourage them to ride more often.
  • Try some strength training by joining a Lift for Life program. Lift for Life is a strength training program designed specifically for people with, or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Do not give up before you start to see the benefits. Be patient and keep at it.
  • Have fun! Physical activity can make you feel good about yourself and it’s a good opportunity to have fun with other people or enjoy some time to yourself.

Walk rather than rest on escalators… or better still, use the stairs.

Finding time to get active

Everyone leads busy lives nowadays and it can seem hard to find time for physical activity. Try to look for opportunities to build as much physical activity into everyday activities as you can. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Rather than spend five minutes circling a car park looking for that ‘perfect space’ right near the entrance, park five minutes away and spend that time walking instead.
  • If you arrive at a bus or tram stop early, why not make use of the time to walk to the next stop?
  • Walk rather than rest on escalators – it’s quicker so you’ll actually save time. Or better still, use the stairs.
  • Work in the garden – get into some energetic gardening activities like digging, shifting soil, and mowing the lawn to raise your heart rate.
  • Clean the house! Activities like vacuuming, cleaning windows and scrubbing floors that raise your heart rate are all good examples of moderate activity.
  • Park further away from work (or get off public transport a few stops early). If you walk for 10 minutes to and from work, you’ll have done 20 minutes without even noticing. Add a 10-minute brisk walk (or more!) at lunch time and you’ve met the guidelines for the day.

Tips to keep you going

  • Buy yourself a pedometer – a gadget which when worn on your hip counts how many steps you take. Use this to motivate you to keep increasing your daily steps. 10,000 stepsis a website dedicated to motivating people to build up to 10,000 steps a day.
  • Walk or cycle instead of using the car for short trips.
  • If you have to drive, park further away from your destination or get off the bus, train or tram one stop early.
  • Catch up with friends by walking together rather than meeting for coffee or a meal.
  • Visit your local library or community centre and check for local community activities.
  • Join a gym with a friend, and use the time to catch up and keep active. Find yourself a registered gym, fitness centre, health club or personal training studio through Health and Fitness Industry Association, Fitness Australia.

Getting active with your family

  • Play actively with your children – kick a footy around, skip, jump on the trampoline.
  • Go on a family bike ride.
  • Take your dog (or the neighbour’s dog) for a walk.
  • If possible, walk to school with your children or park further from the school and walk part of the way.
  • Buy a fitness DVD and get the whole family to join in – a great way to have a laugh and be active.

Getting active at work

  • Keep a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes in the car or at work and you will always be ready for a walk or run.
  • Take the stairs rather than the lift, or walk rather than rest on escalators.
  • Go for a short walk during your lunch break.
  • Start a walking group with work colleagues or friends and stick to a routine of certain days or times to go out together.
  • If you work in an office, try to avoid long periods of sitting and get up as frequently as you can.
  • Walk the long way to the bathroom and kitchen/canteen.
  • Park the car further away from work or get on and off the bus/tram/train at a stop that is further away.

If you are pregnant, have been previously inactive, or suffer from any medical conditions, it is recommended that you seek medical advice before commencing vigorous physical activity.

For best results in achieving a healthier lifestyle and reducing your risk of developing a chronic disease combine physical activity with healthy eating.

Physical activity guidelines for older adults

How much physical activity do older adults aged 65 and over need to do to keep healthy?

The amount of physical activity you need to do each week depends on your age and level of health.

To stay healthy or to improve health, older adults need to do two types of physical activity each week: aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

Older adults aged 65 or older, who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility, should try to be active daily.

It’s recommended that adults aged 65 or older do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.

Some activity, however light, is better for your health than none at all – you should aim to do something, no matter what your age, weight, health problems or abilities. You should aim to active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility.

What counts as moderate-intensity aerobic activity?

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can’t sing the words to a song.

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:

  • walking fast
  • doing water aerobics
  • ballroom and line dancing
  • riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills
  • playing doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • canoeing

Daily activities such as shopping, cooking or housework don’t count towards your dailky 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. This is because the effort required isn’t hard enough to increase your heart rate.

However, it’s important to minimise the amount of time you spend sitting watching TV, reading or listening to music. Some activity, however light, is better for your health than none at all.

What counts as vigorous-intensity aerobic activity?

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath, and you should stop if you feel unwell. The Australian Physical Activity Guide for Older Australians doesn’t recommend you exercise to this level, but if you do, it’s OK. If you have enjoyed a lifetime of vigorous physical activity, you should carry on doing it in a way that suits you now, provided you stick to recommended safety procedures and guidelines.


What counts as muscle-strengthening activity?

Muscle-strengthening exercises are counted in repetitions and sets. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. A set is a group of repetitions.

For each activity, try to do 8 to 12 repetitions in each set. Try to do at least one set of each muscle-strengthening activity. You’ll get even more benefits if you do two or three sets.

To gain health benefits from muscle-strengthening activities, you should do them to the point where you find it hard to complete another repetition.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include:

  • carrying or moving heavy loads such as groceries
  • activities that involve stepping and jumping such as dancing
  • heavy gardening, such as digging or shovelling
  • exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups or sit-ups
  • yoga
  • lifting weights.

Make a time to do specific strength exercises two or three times a week, and build some of them into your everyday activities.

Running tips for beginners

Running can be a fun and flexible way to exercise – it can help keep you in shape and help you lose weight too.

This guide is designed to make running a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and to provide you with tips on how to stay motivated.therapy laser watch

Before you start

If you feel out of shape, or you’re recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, see your doctor before you start running.

If you’ve not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently by walking before you move on to running. You should stop and seek medical advice if you are feeling unwell.

Running requires very little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type will reduce the risk of injury.

There are many types of running shoes on the market, you may need advice from a specialist running retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.

The shoes’ shock absorbers weaken over time, increasing your risk of injury. It’s advisable to replace running shoes every 800 kilometres.

Plan your runs. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you’re going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it won’t slip your mind.therapy laser watch

Starting out

To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it’s essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.

Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.

Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable (anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes). Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, include some running intervals of one to two minutes into your walking at a speed that feels comfortable.

As time goes on, make the running intervals longer, until you’re running for 30 minutes continuously.

Run with your arms and shoulders relaxed, and elbows bent. Keep an upright posture and a smooth running stride, striking the ground from heel to toe.therapy laser watch

Give yourself a few minutes to cool down (to bring your heartbeat back to normal) after each run by walking followed by gently stretching your leg muscles.

Regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.

It’s better to run twice a week, every week, than to run half a dozen times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks.

Staying motivated

Set yourself a goal

Whatever your level, setting goals is important for staying focused and motivated. Make your goals realistic to avoid becoming demoralised. Training for a race or a charity run is a good way to keep going.

Run with a friend

It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You’ll encourage each other when you’re not so keen to run. You’ll feel you don’t want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you.

Keep a diary

Keep a diary of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. That way, whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back and be encouraged by how much you’ve improved.therapy laser watch

Mix it up

Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances and routes.

Join a club

A running club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels, including beginners. Clubs are also a great way to find running partners to run with outside of club sessions.therapy laser watch

Yoga for beginners

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing.

The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing.

The practice originated in India about 5,000 years ago, and has been adapted in other countries in a variety of ways. Yoga is now commonplace in leisure centres, health clubs, schools, hospitals and surgeries.

What are the health benefits of yoga?

Dozens of scientific trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. While there’s scope for more rigorous studies on yoga’s health benefits, most studies suggest that yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. There’s some evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains, including low back pain, depression and stress.

Can yoga help prevent falls?

Yes. Yoga improves balance by strengthening your lower body, in particular your ankles and knees, thereby reducing your chances of falling. However, falls may sometimes be caused by a health condition, in which case it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

Can yoga help with arthritis?

Yoga is popular with people with arthritis for its gentle way of promoting flexibility and strength. Some research suggests that yoga can reduce pain and mobility problems in people with knee osteoarthritis. However, some yoga moves aren’t suitable for people with arthritis. Find a teacher who understands arthritis and can adapt movements for individual needs, especially if you have replacement joints. Check with a doctor or physiotherapist to find out if there are any movements to avoid.therapy laser watch

Am I too old for yoga?

Definitely not. People often start yoga in their 70s and often say they wish they had started sooner. There are yoga classes for every age group. Yoga is a form of exercise that can be enjoyed from childhood to your advanced years.

Do I have to be fit to do yoga?

No, you can join a class that’s suitable for your fitness level. For example, to join a mixed ability yoga class, you need to be able to get up and down from the floor. Some yoga classes are chair-based.therapy laser watch

Don’t I need to be flexible to do yoga?

Not necessarily. Yoga will improve your flexibility and help you go beyond your normal range of movement, so that you then feel more comfortable during normal daily activity.

Can I injure myself doing yoga?

The most common yoga injuries are caused by repetitive strain or overstretching. But yoga is the same as any other exercise discipline. It is perfectly safe if taught properly by people who understand it, and have experience. Learning from a qualified yoga teacher and choosing a class appropriate to your level will ensure that you remain injury-free.

What style of yoga should I do?

There are many different styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Iyengar and Sivananda. Some styles are more vigorous than others. Some may have a different area of emphasis, such as posture or breathing. Many yoga teachers develop their own practice by studying more than one style. No style is necessarily better or more authentic than any other. The key is to choose a class appropriate to your fitness level.therapy laser watch

What type of class should I look out for?

Classes can vary in duration. A longer class will give you more time for learning the breathing and relaxation, and will give the teacher time to work with your individual ability. It’s worth speaking to a teacher about their approach before you sign up for a class.

Where can I find a yoga class?

Many local community centres and gyms will offer Yoga, or you can look at the yoga Australia list of members at to find a professional teacher in your area, or the directory which lists over 2,000 yoga teachers, classes and courses available.

Can I use a book or a yoga DVD instead of going to a class?

It’s better to start with a class to learn the poses and breathing techniques correctly. With a DVD, there will be nobody to correct your mistakes, which may lead to injury over time. With some experience of being in a class, a DVD can then be helpful for keeping up practice.therapy laser watch


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