Active lifestyle

An active lifestyle is not just a good way to access many enjoyable activities, but is also an effective way to improve the likelihood of ageing healthily. Most people readily think of physical activity when they consider an active lifestyle, but there are important benefits to being both socially and cognitively active as well. To read more about these different parts of an active lifestyle, please follow the links below:

Physical activity

Despite most people knowing the importance of physical activity, very few people actually meet the recommended amount of exercise on a regular basis. In Australia, 35% of people report no regular physical activity at all, and 70% report either low or no physical activity.

Official guidelines recommend at least 150-300 minutes (2.5 – 5 hours) of moderate physical activity per week. These activities include brisk walking, recreational swimming, social tennis, and dancing activities that require some effort. Alternatively, the guidelines recommend at least 75-150 minutes (1.25 – 2.5 hours) of vigorous physical activity. These activities require more effort and results in breathing faster, for example, running, fast cycling and heavy lifting tasks.

Adults over the age of 65 years are encouraged to be physically active for at least 30 minutes each day.

Physical activity has wide-ranging benefits for cardiovascular health, brain health, sugar processing, weight management, and helps to combat potentially harmful inflammation and damage caused by oxygen “free radicals” – mal-formed oxygen particles that are associated with wide-reaching harmful effects to the body. This can mean reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia, and physical activity contributes to improved quality of life and management of ongoing health.

Social activity

Social activity is an often-overlooked factor in healthy ageing.

There may be no formal guidelines for social activity but making sure it is a regular part of your lifestyle helps promote healthy ageing.

Social activity helps promote healthy ageing through two mechanisms:

1. It is associated with more positive thinking, emotions, and behaviour
2. It helps to link people to additional information about their health, provides greater access to practical support in managing health and lifestyle, and may help to protect against stress and emotional problems.

Social support is related to better health outcomes at all levels:

• Less likelihood and later onset of health issues (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and death from any cause)
• Better prognosis for recovery
• Better management of ongoing health concerns
• Better self-rated health and fewer days spent sick in bed

Mental activity

Mental activity (or more commonly “cognitive activity” in research terms) is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Cognitive activities often promote social interaction and a feeling of achievement and enjoyment similar to social activities.

However, staying mentally active is especially beneficial for protecting against dementia. Mental activity helps support the growth, maintenance, and repair of connections between brain cells, and reduce the prevalence of biological features of Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no real guide to how much and what sort of activity you should do – as long as you find an activity challenging and engaging (although preferably something novel as well), this should help to support healthy brain ageing.

Some research has examined whether “brain training” applications and games offer additional benefits but at this stage there is little to suggest they are any better than doing other cognitively-stimulating activities.

Department of Health

Fact Sheet: Adults (18-64 years)

Department of Health

Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Australians

Department of Health

National Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Australians: Executive summary

Department of Health

Choose Health, Be Active – A Physical Activity Guide for Older Australians

Healthy Weight Guide

Establishing Physical Activity Habits

Alzheimer’s Australia

Mental Exercise and Dementia