The Benefits

The benefits of getting active

How physical activity can help you

Becoming physically active not only significantly lowers your risk of illness, but can also help to improve many pre-existing health conditions.

Heart disease

A staggering 92 per cent of Australian adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Physical inactivity and poor diet are the most prevalent risk factors – and both are preventable. Regular exercise can lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and reduce body fat. Aerobic activity is particularly beneficial for heart health; and even low impact activities such as swimming, bike riding, or moderate-paced walking will provide benefits.

Type 2 diabetes

Every day in Australia, 275 people develop diabetes (more than 100,000 annually), and being inactive is a major contributing factor. If you already have type 2 diabetes, physical activity can help to improve the body’s response to insulin, which can in turn lower blood glucose levels, help control weight, and lower heart disease risk. Regular, supervised strength training (weight training) has been shown to be particularly helpful for the treatment of diabetes.

Depression

While it can be difficult for people suffering from depression to feel motivated to be physically active, it can be beneficial – particularly in managing mild to moderate depression or anxiety. Research shows that regular physical activity of light or moderate intensity can lead to a reduction in symptoms of up to 50 per cent, especially in women. Becoming more active can help to block negative thoughts, distract you from daily stresses and, if you exercise with other people, the social contact can be invaluable.

Osteoporosis and bone health

Women are at a much higher risk than men of developing osteoporosis. Although most of our bone mass has been achieved by the time we’ve reached adulthood, physical activity can still be of great benefit to our overall bone health. Being active increases muscle strength and also helps to improve our posture,
balance and coordination. Maintaining physical activity into old age can reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Arthritis

It is estimated that around three million Australians have some form of arthritis. Regular light exercise can help to relieve joint stiffness, build muscle strength, lower stress or depression and can help you maintain independence for longer. It is important to find the right balance between exercise and rest. Try exercising in water or chair exercises to help maintain your strength.

Weight loss

Excess body weight is often a result of physical inactivity and is a major risk factor for many chronic conditions. Around 54 per cent of Australian adults are either overweight or obese. Physical activity combined with healthy eating is the best approach for sustainable weight loss. Even moderate-paced walking (about 5km/hour) burns in excess of 100 calories per half hour.

Physical activity can also:

  • Lower your risk of some cancers (e.g. bowel and breast cancer)
  • Ease back, muscle and joint pain
  • Promote better sleep quality
  • Increase energy levels

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