Why increasing active living is important for health and wellbeing

Leading an active life improves health and wellbeing. Moving more and sitting less reduces the risk of ill health and all-cause mortality. Incorporating physical activity into every day is associated with improved mental health, ageing well and increased levels of happiness. It is never too late to start leading an active life, with the health and wellbeing benefits realised well into older age.

Strategic actions

  • Increase the proportion of transport trips that use active modes of travel.
  • Increase easy access to parks, open spaces and public spaces with opportunities for physical activity where appropriate.
  • Integrate healthy lifestyle counselling and referrals within routine health care services.

What we want to achieve

  • improve neighbourhood and precinct planning to better support active living
  • increase accessible and adaptable spaces for active living, ensuring compliance with appropriate state and national regulations and standards
  • increase socio-cultural norms reinforcing active living
  • increase capacity to be more physically active and less sedentary
  • improve integration and accessibility of public transport
  • increase active transport
  • increase participation in sport and active recreation activities
  • decrease sedentariness in workplaces, schools and early learning centres and during leisure time.

This page includes links to evidence-based guidance to assist partners in the implementation of actions to increase active living across a range of settings.

  • Actions in early childhood settings and schools

    By using a whole-of-organisation approach that includes staff, students, families and the wider community, early childhood services and schools are ideally placed to improve health behaviours which can help prevent chronic disease, support better learning outcomes and set children and adults up with healthy habits for life. Early childhood services and schools are also workplaces and have a valuable opportunity to positively influence healthy behaviour of the people who spend time there (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    The Achievement Program provides guidance and support for education settings to become healthier places for their communities. The program is a free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create healthier places, provides links to best-practice resources and case studies, and provides Victorian government recognition once applicable standards have been met.

    Evidence-based actions that early childhood services or schools can take to encourage physical activity, reduce sedentary behaviour and become a healthier place include:

    Encourage Victorian children and young people to use active modes of travel to and from school

    Supporting children and young people to actively travel to and from school builds healthy habits early in life. Children and young people who actively travel engage in more physical activity than those who do not.

    • Support active travel to and from the early childhood service or school, by providing appropriate change facilities and safe storage for bikes, scooters and helmets.
    • Consider opportunities to work with local government to create marked routes to school that are safe for walking, cycling or scooting.

    Resources on this topic include:

    Integrate formal and informal opportunities to increase physical activity and reduce sitting time within the school day

    The provision of high-quality physical education and sport within the school curriculum is important for building a range of fundamental skills in young people including physical literacy skills. In addition to the formal curriculum, embedding opportunities for movement within the school day, such as unstructured play during recess and lunch, and movement integrated within academic classes, provides additional opportunities for activity.

    • Consider how movement could be incorporated into learning times, such as introducing regular 'stand and stretch' breaks during desk-based tasks, chair alternatives for certain activities, for example, bean bags, exercise balls, or incorporating movement into learning tasks such as walking to measure distance.

    Resources on this topic include:

    Enable environments in schools and early learning facilities that promote an active life

    Providing places to play in any weather and equipment that caters to diverse interests and abilities, for example sport, circus or dance equipment, can support increased activity. School environments also provide valuable community spaces that may present opportunities for local activity outside of school hours.

    • Provide suitable spaces for active play during all types of weather, such as indoor activities and games for children to participate in during wet weather and/or extreme heat and have suitable play and sports equipment available for use during breaks.
    • Consider the diversity and cultural practices of your community when planning physical activity opportunities to cater to their varied needs, interests and abilities.
    • Use physical activity to provide opportunities to develop leadership skills through coaching or umpiring team sports.
    • Offer opportunities for families to participate in activities, such as walking with children on local excursions or walkathons, including a parent's event at school sports competitions.
    • Encourage families to make time for physical activity during the week and on the weekend, such as going for a walk or using public transport to travel.
    • Consider making your schools facilities available for local families, sporting club training sessions and/or club games outside of school hours.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in local government

    Local government is ideally placed to develop, lead and implement local policies to influence many determinants of health. These policies include actions in areas such as transport, roads, parks, waste, land use, housing and urban planning, recreation and cultural activities, and creating safe public places. Local government is also a workplace (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, councils are required to protect, improve and promote public health and wellbeing within their municipality and prepare a Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan (MPHWP) every four years. They have a broad role in health promotion, the provision of health services such as immunisation, early childhood and home and community care services and other services such as libraries.

    Evidence-based actions that local government can take to encourage physical activity, reduce sedentary behaviour and become a healthier place include:

    Plan and develop neighbourhoods to support active lifestyles

    The built environment can enable, or be a barrier to, living an active life. Neighbourhoods that are walkable to a range of local services such as schools, sport and recreation facilities, public transport and destinations near people's homes, can encourage higher levels of physical activity. Changes to the built environment to encourage active living can occur at the macro-level, such as provision of quality open space and public transport; and micro-level, for example improved lighting, planting trees to make walking routes appealing, traffic calming measures to increase pedestrian and cyclist's safety, or provision of amenities within parks that encourage active living. Resources to support this include:

    Provide a range of local options that cater to the diverse needs of different groups and whole-of-community initiatives to support people to be physically active, particularly focusing on engaging those least likely to participate

    The greatest gains in health are made through supporting inactive people to become active. Adapting and contextualising traditional physical activity offerings so they are appealing, welcoming and responsive to local needs and diverse groups is critical. Consider opportunities for whole-of-community initiatives that can bring together new partners and stakeholders and encourage collaborative effort towards a shared priority of active living in the municipality.

  • Actions in health and human services

    Health and human services are key players in the Victorian prevention system. The healthcare system encompasses many skilled professionals who are uniquely positioned to encourage and support Victorians to adopt healthy behaviours. Health and human services are also major employers in many communities (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Evidence-based actions that a health or human service can take to encourage physical activity, reduce sedentary behaviour and become a healthier place include:

    Develop the healthcare workforce capacity to promote physical activity within health services

    Evidence suggests that advice provided by healthcare professionals, particularly medical professionals, is highly valued and may support behaviour change efforts. Professionals in health and human services can encourage and support Victorians to be more physically active.

    Embed policies and initiatives within health services that enable cultures and systems that support activity

    To integrate activity within health care services, physical activity must be prioritised, valued and supported by organisations and be responsive to existing system demands.

  • Actions in workplaces

    Workplaces offer unique opportunities to promote health and wellbeing and create healthy working environments for staff in the places they spend the most of their time. Creating a healthy workplace helps staff make healthier choices and improves the culture of the organisation overall. Creating a healthy workplace can be complex but there are areas where a few vital behaviour changes can have a major impact and help staff participate, be well, be more productive, and contribute to the community.

    The Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program provides guidance and support for workplaces to become healthier places for their community. The program is a free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create healthier places, provides links to best-practice resources and case studies, and provides Victorian government recognition once applicable standards have been met.

    Evidence-based actions that a workplace can take to encourage physical activity, reduce sedentary behaviour and become a healthier place include:

    Support workers to actively commute to and from work and actively travel through-out the workday when the opportunity presents

    Melbourne public transport users achieve more than 40 minutes of incidental physical activity a day, compared with car users who achieve less than 10 minutes (Bus Association of Victoria 2010). Workplaces can also help to normalise active travel as the preferred option for short trips taken during the work day.

    • Support active travel to and from the workplace, by providing appropriate change facilities and safe storage for bikes and helmets.
    • Promote public transport options, walking and cycling routes near the workplace.
    • Encourage workplace teams to participate in community initiatives that encourage physical activity, such as Active April.

    Active-by-Design, Heart Foundation

    Introduce initiatives that encourage increased movement and reduced sitting time throughout the work day

    Workplaces have become increasingly sedentary with many people spending long periods of time sitting at work. Workplaces can introduce policies and initiatives that encourage people to move more and reduce sitting time while at work.

    • Encourage employees to reduce sitting periods where possible by providing sit-stand desks, holding stand up or walking meetings, promoting the use of stairs, and office layout that encourages employees to walk to printers and rubbish bins.
    • Offer on-site exercise facilities, groups or classes or establish a regular walking group or explore opportunities to integrate walking within normal organisational business, such as walking meetings where appropriate.

    Workplace wellness - resources for your workplace, Heart Foundation