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Physical activity is so important that the Australian government regularly updates the National Physical Activity and Sedentary Activity Guidelines. 

These guidelines recommend that Australians aged 18-64 should:

  • do any physical activity, as it’s better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount
  • be active on most, preferably all, days of the week
  • each week:
    • accumulate 150-300 minutes (2½-5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity (ie, you can talk but not sing), OR 
    • 75-150 minutes (1¼-2½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, OR
    • an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities
  • do muscle-strengthening activities at least two days every week.

Swimming laps

Activity 1. Barriers to exercise

As a group activity, read the article on barriers to exercise. Brainstorm how you and your workplace or group can overcome these common obstacles.

Skipping in the park

Most people in the workforce lead busy and complex lives, which include juggling many responsibilities. The following five barriers can make it more difficult to squeeze physical activity into busy working days:

  1. Lack of time
  2. Tiredness
  3. Cost and proximity of facilities
  4. Lack of motivation
  5. Hot, cold or rainy weather

Now, here’s our suggestions for how you can conquer each one of them!

Lack of time

Lack of time

  • Build physical activity or exercise into your daily commute. Hop off the tram a stop early each day, or ride your bike to the train station.
  • Start work 15 minutes earlier, to allow for a lunchtime gym workout and shower.
  • Try doing three or more 10-minute bursts of activity during the work day, such as taking a brisk walk, skipping rope or doing a short workout at your desk.
  • Schedule exercise breaks into your daily diary.
  • Ask your employer about offering flexible start and finish times for staff.
  • Create more time you can use for exercise by:
    • cooking bulk meals and freezing them for the week ahead
    • shopping for groceries online and having them home delivered
    • organising rosters for chores so that all family members contribute.
  • Organise an active social get-together; for example, a walk with a friend instead of a sit-down coffee together.
  • Walk your dog. If you don't have one, offer to walk a neighbour’s dog.
  • Walk with the kids to the park and play tag, kick a ball or throw a Frisbee.
  • Get up half an hour earlier at least three times a week and do some morning exercise.

Tiredness

  • Take a proper lunchbreak away from your desk. Walk to the park.
  • Minimise stress, which can increase tiredness, by taking short mindfulness breaks during the day.
  • Don't skip breakfast! Eat before work every morning to maximise energy.
  • Stick to a regular bedtime to avoid skimping on sleep.
  • Keep your evening meal nutritious but simple.

Cost and proximity of facilities

  • Talk to your manager about work-subsidised staff gym memberships.
  • Raise funds for an on-site gym room that staff can book ahead of time.
  • Choose activities that require minimal equipment, such as walking or skipping rope. 

Lack of motivation

  • Exercise with one or two work colleagues. Having one exercise buddy makes it more enjoyable and having two buddies increases your chances of sticking to your exercise goals.
  • Vary your lunchtime gym classes. Don’t always do the same type of class.
  • Set measurable goals, such as going for a half-hour walk at lunch.
  • Join a team or create one with your colleagues. You will feel compelled to turn up, so you don’t let your teammates down.
  • Choose workout activities you enjoy, such as dancing or playing squash.

Hot, cold or rainy weather

  • Go for a walk in the local shopping centre during lunch.
  • Attend a gym class.
  • Follow an online exercise class so you can work out in your lounge room.
  • Invest in a stationary bike. You can even use it while watching TV.

Activity 2. Poster

Download this motivating poster on five ways to be active in your workplace. Pin it up in the staff room, or hand it around your group or workplace for display at work stations.

Activity 3. Ways to walk

Walking is free, enjoyable, not too taxing and can be done anywhere, at any time of day. Read the tips below and get talking with your workplace or group about how to get more steps in your day.

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so it’s good for joints and bones, especially if you're climbing stairs or going up-hill. While taking in the fresh air, your muscle tone, lung function, flexibility and coordination also get a boost. So buy a pedometer and aim to increase the number of steps you walk each day.

Recent research shows that you don’t have to exercise vigorously or for long periods to maintain weight or good health. Just doing three to five 10-minute blocks of physical activity over a day will still provide health benefits.

That’s a good incentive to be as active as possible on every work day. Try to accumulate physical activity by doing the following:

In transit

  • Walk an extra one to three stops further before catching your tram or bus
  • Stand while travelling on public transport
  • Walk up and down the escalators at the train station
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift
  • When driving, make a point of parking further away from your office. 

At work

  • Suggest walking and standing meetings with colleagues or managers
  • Volunteer to do the morning coffee run for colleagues
  • Use afternoon or morning tea as an activity break by walking with your cup of tea in a thermal mug
  • Move things out of reach, such as your in-tray and envelopes, so you have to stand up to access them
  • Stand up during phone calls
  • Use a standing desk. If you don’t feel you can stand all day, just use it for half a day or alternate between one hour of sitting and one hour of standing
  • Sit on a balance ball at your desk. In order to stay upright, you will work muscles in your thighs, abdomen (tummy) and bottom
  • Walk to your colleague’s office to give them a message rather than sending an email on the intranet
  • Stand up and stretch every hour
  • Turn waiting time into active time – stretch, do star jumps or jog on the spot when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil in the tea room, or for the printer to print your documents in the photocopying room
  • Get involved in fitness challenges with other colleagues.

More ways to get active at work

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