Types of physical activity
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Types of physical activity

Nine out of 10 Australians could reduce the risk of heart disease by walking as little as 15 minutes more each day.

Key takeaways

  • Cardio and strengthening activities are vital for good health  
  • Mixing up a range of physical activities makes you more likely to keep it up over the long term 
  • Physical activity can reduce your risk of heart disease 
  • Depending on your fitness, activities can be low, moderate or vigorous-intensity.  
As an adult, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack by adding up to 30 minutes or more of brisk walking on five or more days a week. This is the recommendation under the Australian guidelines.  

For physical activity guidelines for children and young people visit the Department of Health Physical Activity Guidelines.     

What sort of activities should you do? 

Being more active helps you to feel, think and live better. To find the right physical activity for you, do what you enjoy, do a variety of activities and do them regularly.   

But which activities are best for me? The answer is simple.
  
  • Do what you enjoy. 
  • Do a variety of activities.  
  • Do them regularly.  
When we have a great time being active, we’re more likely you are to stick to it. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to be active, such as:
 
  • Take a walking meeting at work 
  • Play a game with friends in the park 
  • Go on a bushwalking holiday 
  • Join a dance class 
  • Go for a walk. Walking is a great activity for most people as it is free, simple and can be done almost anywhere. 
To stay motivated, try setting goals and noting any improvements. You can record progress using a fitness tracker like a Fitbit, mobile app, website or journal. 

No matter where you are on your fitness journey, it’s important to be kind to yourself. If you can, remind yourself that you’re doing a great job and that every step is helping you be healthier.  

What are the different types of physical activity?  

Warming-up and stretching 

It’s a good idea to gently warm-up before starting physical activity. This helps prepare muscles for being active and prevent injuries. Stretching after activity, when muscles are warm, will assist flexibility and can ease any aches and pains. Activities that improve flexibility, such as stretches, yoga or Pilates can be great at any age.  

Strengthening activities for muscles and bones 

Weight-bearing activity is important for almost everyone – especially as we age – as muscle mass and bone density decrease over time. However, lifting weights is not advised for those with heart disease. 

Bone strengthening involves moderate and high-impact activities to stimulate bone growth and repair. Some examples include jogging, tennis and dancing. 

Lift light weights

  • Improve muscle strength by lifting light weights. If you don’t have access to weights, use cans of tinned food, water bottles or small bags of rice. 
  • You can also do body weight resistance exercises, such as lunges, squats and push-ups. 
Start slowly and build up gradually
  • As with any new physical activity, start slowly and gradually build up. With muscle strengthening, start with 10 repetitions lifting an easy weight. Then, slowly over time, increase the repetitions gradually to 20. Once this feels easy, increase the weight slightly and return to 10 repetitions.   

​Breathe normally

  • Don’t hold your breath during lifts. It’s important to breathe normally as the strain of lifting weights can raise blood pressure. This is also true for other lifting activities such as carrying heavy shopping or a basket of wet laundry. 

Cardiovascular or aerobic activity 

Cardiovascular activity (cardio) can increase your breathing rate, making heart and muscles work harder. It can be low, moderate or vigorous intensity, which is different for every person.  

Moderate-intensity activities make breathing heavier, but holding a conversation still comfortable. Some of these include:
 
  • Brisk walking 
  • Golf 
  • Easy cycling 
  • Household jobs, such as washing windows. 
 
Vigorous-intensity activities make us huff and puff so we can’t talk as easily. Examples include: 
 
  • Jogging 
  • Group fitness classes 
  • Organised sports, such as football, tennis and netball.  
 
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of vigorous exercise paired with rest or low-intensity activity.  

How intense should physical activities be? 

  • Start with moderate-intensity physical activities that make you breathe a little heavier. Then, increase the amount and frequency gradually 
  • Speak to your doctor or health professional for advice before starting a new physical activity routine 
  • Don’t overdo it. If you’re feeling discomfort, chest pain, faint, trouble breathing or your heartbeat is too fast or irregular, stop the physical activity immediately and seek medical advice  
  • Avoid high-intensity physical activity straight after meals or alcohol, or if you have an illness. 

Speak to your doctor before you start 

Light to moderate activity is fine for most people. However, if you have pre-existing health issues, speak to your doctor before starting any new physical activity. 

You might also be interested in

7 tips for staying healthy over winter

7 tips for staying healthy over winter

7 tips for staying healthy over winter

Tips for healthy eating and recipe ideas over winter and how to exercise when it's cold outside. ...

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

The fundraising race where you set the pace. Run, jog or walk MyMarathon at your own pace during October....

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your kids active and set them up for healthier habits into adulthood....

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

Active Australia Innovation Challenge

Active Australia Innovation Challenge

Active Australia Innovation Challenge

Make your bright idea a reality....

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Feel healthier and happier in six weeks with a free Personal Walking Plan...

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Physical activity and exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental health....

Get active during winter

Get active during winter

Get active during winter

Get ready to go with our winter workout tips....

Physical activity action plan

Physical activity action plan

Exercises to do at home

Exercises to do at home

Exercises to do at home

All you need to know about keeping active during COVID-19....

Support for young adults: Online events

Support for young adults: Online events

Support for young adults: Online events

A series of virtual events for young adults on managing emotional wellbeing. ...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Trek for Australian Hearts

Trek for Australian Hearts

Trek for Australian Hearts

Join the Heart Foundation in South Australia for the journey of a lifetime, trekking the ancient Flinders Ranges to help save Australian hearts....

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Feel healthier and happier in six weeks with a free Personal Walking Plan...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join our community of fundraisers who are committed to taking action to fight heart disease....

Heart Week

Heart Week

Heart Week

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Not all dairy products are equal. Discover different types of dairy foods and their impact on heart health....

Your heart is your most important tool

Your heart is your most important tool

Your heart is your most important tool

Men’s Health Week is the perfect time to think about your heart....

10 steps to protect your heart health

10 steps to protect your heart health

10 steps to protect your heart health

Ready to help your heart keep on beating? Here are 10 important ways to reduce your risk of heart disease for a healthier life.  ...

End of Financial Year Tax Receipt

End of Financial Year Tax Receipt

End of Financial Year Tax Receipt

Looking to claim your donations in your tax return this financial year?...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Try our Heart Age Calculator to understand what contributes to your risk of heart disease....

Healthy chicken fajitas

Healthy chicken fajitas

20 minutes
Serves 4

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts provide a visual tool to calculate CVD risk for use in practice in Australia....

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW ...

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Find heart healthy seafood recipes...

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is the broad term for conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. ...

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

The Australian Guideline for Prevention, Diagnosis and Management of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease (2nd Edition)​....

Aussie men among the world’s most obese, new data

Aussie men among the world’s most obese, new data

Aussie men among the world’s most obese, new data

Media Release - 16 November 2020...

CVD risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults

CVD risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults

This consensus statement contains recommendations for assessing CVD risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged under 35....

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Statistics and information on heart failure in Australia ...

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising....

Matilda signs up for Jump Rope just one month after open-heart surgery

Matilda signs up for Jump Rope just one month after open-heart surgery

Matilda signs up for Jump Rope just one month after open-heart surgery

Media Release - 26 June 2020...

Heart Safe Community

Heart Safe Community

Heart Safe Community

Heart Safe Community is a program that aims to increase a person’s chance of survival if they suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital. ...

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your kids active and set them up for healthier habits into adulthood....

Blueprint for an active Australia 

Blueprint for an active Australia 

Blueprint for an active Australia 

The Blueprint for an active Australia provides evidence-based actions to help address physical inactivity....