I am
Show me:
Show me:
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....

Physical activity action plan

Physical activity action 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....

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....

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Improving the design of our cities, towns, streets and buildings makes it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Learn more about Heart Foundation Walking and find your local walking group....

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

Question of the month blog...

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Resources available for built environment professionals to help guide in the development of active outdoor and indoor spaces....

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart teaches school children how to keep fit and healthy through skipping!...

Getting active at school

Getting active at school

Getting active at school

Physical activity resources for school staff....

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Physical activity in the workplace

Physical activity in the workplace

Physical activity in the workplace

Resources to help you create a more physically active workplace....

This Father’s Day share the ways you protect your heart

This Father’s Day share the ways you protect your heart

This Father’s Day share the ways you protect your heart

Have you thought about what you are getting for your children this Father’s Day?...

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and exercise can benefit your heart, body and mind....

Walk away from heart disease

Walk away from heart disease

Walk away from heart disease

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Finding time for physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart...

Sit less, move more

Sit less, move more

Sit less, move more

You may be surprised to know that on average, adults sit for nine hours a day....

Staying active for better heart health

Staying active for better heart health

Staying active for better heart health

Moving more every day is one of the best habits you can have....

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....

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...

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. ...

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

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. ...

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Together, we can make heart disease history. Donate today to help fund ground-breaking heart research and keep families together this Christmas. ...

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.  ...

Cardiomyopathy; another health curveball for Ange

Cardiomyopathy; another health curveball for Ange

Cardiomyopathy; another health curveball for Ange

A story from Ange Foster ...

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. ...

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents....

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Access to Australian heart disease guidelines is now free at your fingertips...

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Find heart healthy lamb recipes....

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Give yourself a chance to win $20,000 while helping the Heart Foundation to raise essential funds for heart research....

Sodium and salt converter

Sodium and salt converter

Convert the sodium listed on food products into grams of salt or vice versa. ...

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Resources to help support your council region to be healthy, connected and safe....

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Absolute CVD risk calculator

Absolute CVD risk calculator

The Absolute CVD risk calculator estimates the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years....

State based advocacy

State based advocacy

State based advocacy activity supporting local communities...

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition. ...

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

How to boost your fruit and vegetable intake to help protect your heart. ...

Smoking and tobacco regulation

Smoking and tobacco regulation

There are still more than 15,000 deaths caused by smoking every year....

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

This cardiac services directory presents information on cardiac rehab programs offered across Australia....

Heart attack medication

Heart attack medication

Heart attack medication

There are a number of medications you could be prescribed after a heart attack....

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems....

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW ...

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and your heart health

Physical activity and exercise can benefit your heart, body and mind....