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Two women runningWhat do we mean when we talk about light intensity, moderate intensity and vigorous intensity physical activity?

The intensity of physical activity is related to how hard our body works while doing that activity.

Typically, the intensity of physical activity can be described as light, moderate or vigorous. To benefit health, Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend a variety of moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity.

Light intensity activities are those that require standing up and moving around, either in the home, workplace or community. Some examples include:

  • Housework like hanging out the washing, ironing and dusting
  • Working at a standing workstation.

Moderate intensity means that the activities require some effort but you can still talk while doing them. Examples of moderate intensity activities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Recreational swimming
  • Social tennis
  • Cleaning the windows at home.

Vigorous intensity means that the activities lead to harder breathing, or puffing and panting (depending on your fitness). Examples of vigorous intensity activities include:

  • Aerobics
  • Jogging
  • Many competitive sports
  • Lifting, carrying and digging.

Some of your moderate intensity physical activity can be achieved through day-to-day movement (e.g. walking briskly to catch a bus), through planned leisure activities and through your job. Doing vigorous intensity physical activity can have additional health benefits and may be built into your day, perhaps with a bit more planning.

As well as increasing your amount of physical activity, it is important to reduce your amount of sedentary behaviour. Sedentary behaviour refers to time spent sitting or lying down (except when sleeping), with very little energy expenditure.

Examples of sedentary activities include:

  • Sitting at work
  • Watching TV
  • Reading
  • Sewing
  • Computer use for non-active games or social networking
  • Sitting in a car, train, bus or tram.

If you have health problems, haven’t been physically active for a while, are pregnant or over 65 years of age, your health professional can advise you about the best physical activities for you. Further information about physical activity is available in this guide for pregnant women, for children, for teenagers and for the over 65s.



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