Physical Activity

In addition to the subjective elements of wellbeing that are measured using the PERMA framework (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment), research has shown that objective elements of wellbeing are equally as important. We generally cannot have good overall psychological wellbeing if we are neglecting our physical health.

Research shows that there is a link between wellbeing and physical health. People who are suffering from mental illness are more likely to be physically inactive, which is a risk factor for chronic heart disease (Burton, Pakenham, Brown, 2009).

Negative emotions are also associated with an increased risk of disease through poor health habits, such as physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption (Chesney, 2009). In addition, people who are more psychologically resilient are less likely to be obese (Stewart-Knox, et al., 2012). 

How to increase your physical activity

The National Physical Activity Guidelines ask us to think of movement as an opportunity for improving health, not an inconvenience.

As society has modernised, we have reduced our opportunities to move more and more. These decreases in activity have significant consequences for our wellbeing and have been associated with an increase in obesity and other health problems.

It is important to try and be active every day in as many ways as possible. Small increases in daily activity can come from small changes carried out throughout the day. For example, making a habit of walking or cycling instead of driving or riding in a car; doing some gardening; walking up stairs instead of using the lift or an escalator; and/or doing things by hand instead of using labour-saving machines. All these things can add to the level of daily physical activity. 

Research findings on physical activity

  • People who are suffering from mental illness are more likely to be physically inactive, which is a risk factor for chronic heart disease (Burton, Pakenham & Brown, 2009).
  • Negative emotions are also associated with an increased risk of disease through poor health habits, such as physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption (Chesney et al., 2005).
  • People who are more psychologically resilient are less likely to be obese (Stewart-Knox et al., 2012). 

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND SEDENTARY BEHAVIOUR GUIDELINES FOR ADULTS (18-64) (from the Australian Department of Health) 

Sedentary Behaviour is ...

Sitting or lying down (except for when you are sleeping). It is common to spend large amounts of time being sedentary when at work, when travelling or during leisure time.
Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.


Physical Activity is ...

Any activity that gets your body moving, makes your breathing become quicker and your heart beat faster. You can be physically active in many different ways, at any time of the day. Be active on most, preferably all, days every week. 

Each week:

150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes (1.5 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, will help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, heart health, as well as muscle and bone strength.

Each week increasing to:
300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, will provide greater benefit and help to prevent cancer and unhealthy weight gain.

Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Vigorous intensity activities require more effort and make you breathe harder and faster ("huff and puff")

  • Jogging
  • Aerobics
  • Fast cycling
  • Many organised sports
  • Tasks that involve lifting, carrying or digging

Moderate Intensity activities take some effort, but you are still able to talk while doing them.

  • Recreational swimming
  • Dancing
  • Social tennis
  • Golf
  • Household tasks like cleaning windows or raking leaves
  • Pushing a stroller

Muscle strengthening activities maintain your ability to do everyday tasks.

  • Body weight exercises like push-ups, squats or lunges
  • Tasks around the house that involve lifting, carrying or digging
  • Weights or other resistance training