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  • Luke Royes and Juliette Steen

Not sure which type of exercise is right for you? Use this guide

If you're keen to be fitter and healthier, finding what exercise is right for you can be a great first step.

From free activities you could start today, to classes and group exercises you might like to try, we've made a list of our evidence-based guides to help you feel confident and get moving:

Get up and go


Walking and hiking can be taken up by most people of all age groups and fitness levels. Plus it's free, and if you keep up a good pace, it's great exercise.

You can do it almost anywhere, anytime, solo or in a group, on the flat or over hills and even indoors, on a treadmill.


You can run in plenty of places, as long as you have your shoes with you.

Health-wise, it can promote gains in cardiovascular fitness, endurance and improve leg strength.

It can be a very social activity, or you can run alone; it's entirely up to you.


Swimming offers an all-over-body workout that also improves cardiorespiratory fitness, endurance and flexibility. And it's never too late to learn how to do it.

It's an activity that can be done alone (with minimal equipment) but if you're after a more social experience, many pools offer squad swimming and triathlon training.


The house and garden work has to be done anyway, so why not really put your back into it and get a workout too?

Spend half an hour each on some vacuuming, window washing and lawn mowing, and you could burn as much energy as a vigorous circuit training class at the gym.

You can improve your strength (shovel that compost), flexibility (clean the top of the bookshelf) and cardiovascular fitness (vacuum that hallway).

You'll need some gear


All you need to start surfing is a board and some surf wax, a few lessons on keeping safe and what to do, a beach with waves, and patience (and if you're in the southern states, a wetsuit).

Then you can hit the waves for a great all-body workout that can help you clear your mind and get in touch with nature.

With almost 40,000 kilometres of coastline and a whole lot of good surf, the options around Australia are limitless.


If getting a cardiovascular workout and improving your hand-eye coordination, balance and timing is something that interests you — boxing is a knockout.

Fitness boxing combined with functional training, including boxing combinations, pad work and sparring — with the right technique and equipment — is a great way to build upper and lower body strength.

Weight training

Weight training isn't just for those of us trying to look like Aquaman's Jason Momoa or former UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.

Lifting heavy things isn't just about making you stronger and bulkier. It's also fantastic for improving bone density in both men and women, which reduces your risk of fractures from brittle bones later in life.


Squash is an exclusively indoor sport, so light and weather conditions don't matter.

You do need a squash partner, but many clubs offer friendly tournaments where you can meet and compete against other players.

Squash is not for the faint-hearted. It's fast, furious and rowdy so if you prefer something more polite, try tennis (keep reading…).


Tennis is classified as a high-intensity exercise, that can increase your cardiovascular fitness, endurance and strengthen your legs, buttocks, back and abdomen.

You can play tennis all year round, with many clubs offering night-time and weekend sessions. Otherwise grabs some balls, a partner and a booking at a local court and you're on your way.

Lawn bowls

Don't assume lawn bowls is a sport only taken seriously by a mature-aged crowd or inebriated colleagues at the Christmas party — a humble game is still capable of getting your heart pumping.

For those interested in taking up the sport, expect a lot of walking, mental resilience, endurance and stamina to get through the game. There are plenty of lunges in the game so you can expect improved lower body and core strength the more you play.


You can kayak on your own, or in a double or four-person kayak and of course you'll need a body of water to paddle in.

Many kayak and canoe clubs train early in the morning, but social kayaking can be done at any time of day.

Kayaking is a good all-body workout, helping to build strength and endurance in the torso, arms, legs and core as well as bolstering your cardio fitness.


Sure there's plenty of walking involved — up to 8 kilometres' worth — but did you know playing a round can also boost endurance, strength and is a great way to release stress?


The aim of yoga is to build a heightened awareness of mind — but plenty of people do it just for the physical aspects.

Free online tutorials can step you through the ancient moves to build strength, flexibility, mobility, coordination and balance.

If you prefer in-person instruction (at least when starting out), try group classes — there are also free classes in some parks and community halls.


Want to improve balance, flexibility, core strength and posture all at once? Pilates might be for you.

These exercises use coordinated breath and movement to strengthen and stretch the body. Pilates focuses on the deep abdominal muscles, buttocks, hips and lower back through exercises performed either on a mat or on a machine called a reformer.

Group classes are an economical way to practice pilates, but one-on-one sessions are also available.

Ballroom dancing

Casual group classes are offered in dance studios around the country, catering for all ability levels and covering many styles — from traditional waltz and foxtrot, through to the fiery Latin tango and cha-cha.

It's a great opportunity to meet people and a good workout for improving cardiovascular fitness, coordination, core strength and posture.

Better with others

Dragon boat racing

Dragon boating is similar to canoeing, except the fibreglass boats most commonly hold a much larger crew: 20 paddlers who sit in pairs, a drummer, who sits at the bow, and a sweep steering at the rear.

It's not just a great way of exercising with others — it's a whole-body workout with your legs as the anchor, while the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back drag the paddle through the water.


Not only will you do plenty of running, jogging, kicking and passing the ball, you could also be bouncing it off your head, chest, and upper body, which is why soccer is a great way of improving fitness and coordination.

It's the world's most popular sport and there are plenty of clubs across the country, so it's just a matter of finding a social or competitive club that suits your skill level, padding up and taking to the pitch.

Rugby union

Rugby union attracts both men and women and tends to be self-selecting for those with a more solid body type because it's such a contact sport.

Once you get into it you'll see how it can help with increased agility, improved cardiovascular fitness and endurance and all-over strength.

Tai chi

Tai chi, tai chi chuan, or taijiquan, is a form of ancient Chinese martial arts often described as "meditation in motion".

Aside from reducing stress and improving balance and coordination, studies have shown regular tai chi practice can result in a range of benefits, including pain and stiffness reduction in people with arthritis and physical and mental health improvements for those with type 2 diabetes.


Shooting hoops is something you can do alone in the park but is a great social activity as well.

Regular basketball games involve a lot of running and is great cardiovascular exercise and can help improve leg strength.

Expert guidance recommended

Rock climbing

The benefits of rock climbing include muscular endurance, strength, flexibility and mental focus (there's nothing like focusing on not falling to hone your concentration skills).

There are many types of rock climbing — including bouldering and traditional — and you can rock climb both indoors at climbing gyms or outdoors on cliff faces.

Surf lifesaving

There are plenty of personal and community benefits to surf lifesaving — and you don't need to start as a nipper to get involved either.

Swimming, running and paddling in the ocean will keep you fit and build cardiovascular fitness, endurance and full body strength.

Article from ABC Everyday

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