The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is essential for optimal health. Physical inactivity is ranked 4th as the leading cause of mortality worldwide by The World Health Organisation (WHO).

Most western countries have experienced significant demographic changes with a continuing increase in the number of older people who face medical and functional challenges as well as diseases that are age specific. Most of these diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease or type ll diabetes are caused by civilisation. The WHO has identified these diseases are non communicable diseases (NCD's).

Most NCDs primarily result from unhealthy lifestyles including the consumption of too much or unhealthy food [1, 2], too much alcohol [1, 2 ] and excessive smoking habits [1, 8], combined with physical inactivity [1, 2]. More specifically, inactivity and unhealthy eating habits are associated with weight gain. Overweight and obesity and are the major underlying causes for modern diseases such as CHD or type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Exercise has many benefits and involves using your muscles to move to burn energy. It's benefits include improvements in obesity reduction, diabetes, asthma, joint disorders, muscular strength and cardiovascular disease. At a psychological level it can reduce depression and anxiety.

The recommended guidelines for exercise aim for 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 times per week, resulting in 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

This exercise can be in accumulated or non consecutive amounts and can be in any form, including yoga, dance, walking, pilates,domestic tasks, gardening or vacuuming.

A 150 minute dose of moderate to increased activity accumulated per week can reduce the risk of most major chronic diseases by 25-50%.

According to Garber CE et al [4] adults should also perform resistance exercise for each of the major muscle groups and neuromotor exercise involving balance, agility and co-ordination on 2 to 3 days per week.

There is overwhelming evidence for the health benefits of increased physical activity. Regular physical activity can promote more desirable health outcomes across a variety of physical conditionsThe exercise should be enjoyable and fun and taken as a daily dose.


1. Dishman RK, Washburn RA, Heath GW: Physical Activity Epidemiology. 2004, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

2. World Health Organization: Global Health Risks - Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. 2009, World Health Organization.,

3. National Ageing Research Institute

4. Garber GE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, La Monte MJ, Lee IM, Nieman DC, Swain DP Medicine and Science in Sport 01 JUL 2011, 43 (7) 1334-1359.

About the author:

Dr Jan Naughton received her PhD at Sydney University where she was lecturing in Sports Medicine and undergraduate physiotherapy. She specialises in shoulder injuries and has a sports physiotherapy practice in Wahroonga on Sydney's upper north shore working with two other specialist colleagues.

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