22 Jun, 2015 Last updated: 22 Jun, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

First published in the Women's Agenda  on 22 June 2015.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter
Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

We all know that we need to make time to be active. Regular exercise should be built into our routines to keep the body and mind active. We also know that for many of us, myself included, it can be difficult to find the recommended 30 minutes for physical activity every day.

Competing priorities such as work, family commitments, social commitments and everything else in between can be the biggest barrier to finding the time to squeeze in exercise every day. It's unsurprising that many women feel they have to choose work and family over their own physical wellbeing.

Around 60% of Australian adults are overweight or obese, and more than 25 % of these fall into the obese category. By 2025, more than three-quarters of us will be overweight or obese.

A first step in addressing this is to get people moving more. The benefits of getting active include increased health and fitness; weight loss, improved mental wellbeing and prevention of obesity and diseases such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

A recent study commissioned by VicHealth found that, while women are significantly more likely to want to commit to new activities or physical regimes in the future, (nearly 34% versus just over 18% of men), women's actual participation in physical activity from the age of 29 and over was consistently lower in all age groups compared to men.

Statistics also show that four times as many women (44 %) are choosing to participate in non-organised or more flexible activities such as aerobics, yoga and swimming compared to organised physical activity such as through a sports club (9%).

Women are calling out for flexible, non-competitive forms of activity to keep them active, but unfortunately, these forms of activity are also easy to back out of if you are having a busy week, or are just too tired – the excuses can be infinite.

For many, the solution might be as simple as finding someone to partner with that will motivate you to start, and maintain, your commitment to a new activity. It is much harder to ditch a friend, walking partner, or teammate than to simply turn off that alarm in the morning or decide it's too cold to go for a walk.

This is why initiatives like VicHealth's TeamUp are so important. TeamUp is an app and online tool that is all about getting people with similar interests, in local areas, together – to help them motivate each other to be regularly active.

It's free and is about making physical activity social and fun, not a chore. It lets you connect with like-minded people and enjoy being active, when and where you want, no matter what your level of fitness.

In addition to the hundreds of local activities on the app to get you started, here are some tips that I use to ensure that I don't put off physical activity:

  1. TeamUp! Getting active with a friend or a new buddy will not only make the activity more fun, you'll feel accountable and won't miss your activity! VicHealth's TeamUp app is free, easy to navigate and users can create their own activities at the click of a button. Download it now for iPhone or Android or use TeamUp online via www.teamup.com.au
  2. Keep it fun: If you're not into serious team sports or pounding the treadmill why not get outdoors, meet a friend at a dog park and enjoy an afternoon with your canines or choose a bike path with a beautiful beach or lakeside view. Feeling adventurous? Try something new like a dance class or learn some circus skills.
  3. Listen to your body: Don't overstrain yourself. Heavy deadlifts with no prior training is never a good idea. The important tip is make sure you do something every day so start off with a small goal each week to challenge yourself, then build your activity levels over time but also know when you need to take it easy and at a slower pace.
  4. Take short breaks from your desk: Feeling a little overwhelmed by your day? A five-minute walk outside, using a standing desk or having a walking meeting with a colleague can give you the mental and physical refresh that you need. You'll come back feeling productive, refreshed and energised, try it out.
  5. Reward yourself! Stay motivated to keep being active with healthy home cooked meals, a relaxing bath or boost your mental wellbeing by joining an arts activity such as learning to paint or going to the ballet.

- Jerril