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FeatureLiving Well

One giant leap.

Can you guess what can simultaneously provide all these amazing health benefits...

Nov 22, 2022


Words: Gippslandia

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Did you know that we have ‘physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians’?

Neither did we!


Luckily, Dr Mathew O’Grady, a lecturer in exercise and sport at Federation University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, sure does.


Mathew, also known as ‘Dr Mog’ in rarefied company, knows that he only needs to squeeze in a cheeky 30-minute jog with his colleagues during their lunch break to start ticking some guideline requirements.

For your info, adults, during a week we need to enjoy either:
- 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity – such as a brisk walk, golf, mowing the lawn or swimming;

- 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity – such as jogging, aerobics, fast cycling, soccer or netball;

- Or, an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities.

“Two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight.”

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It’s pretty easy to find half an hour each day to get the body moving (health.gov.au can even provide you with tips), and the rewards can be immense, as staying fit and active can reduce the risk of several diseases. It’s ace for your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check, and it makes you feel good.

Similar to many youngsters, Mathew grew up loving sport. Cricket, football and judo were his jam, as well as some gymnastics and diving. Initially, he focused his talents on judo, becoming “quite good” as he strived towards his Olympic dream. Later, his passion for cricket came to the fore.

Then, Mathew realised that he may not represent his nation in either. Shit.

He still loved his sport. So, Mathew channelled it into a Bachelor of Sports Science. That was 14 years ago and he’s not done studying yet.

Mathew explains that he’s currently the sole sports science teacher at the Churchill Federation University campus, and that as an academic advisor his strengths lie in the topics of biomechanics and the fundamentals of fitness. As an early career researcher, he’s really focusing on teaching and enjoying opportunities to collaborate with researchers from the other campuses of the university – such as a recent paper examining road cycling tactics.

For Mathew’s post-doctoral studies he researched post-activation potentiation (PAP), which is when you mix heavy resistance training, say heavy squats, with lighter activities – for instance, jumping. Interestingly, Mathew’s research found that the athlete’s body wasn’t fatigued from this training, but they could actually jump higher or sprint faster afterwards.

These insights could have substantial implications for training or as a warm-up activity. Maybe we’ll see athletes with a loaded-up squat rack moments before an Olympic sprint?

Leg strength was a key topic in another paper that explored jumping techniques for basketball. Mathew contributed to the study by exploring how differently-built players have different strength qualities and, therefore, different approaches to jumping techniques. For instance, heavy players with high strength prefer a double leg, vertical jump, whereas lighter, smaller players are more inclined to jump from one leg and can adjust their movements as they travel horizontally and vertically in the air. Again, these findings will influence training programs for high performance athletes.

Almost as a counterpoint to the lively discussion about the benefits of explosive activity, even just movement generally, the conversation returns to how detrimental our modern, more sedentary lifestyles can be.

Two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight. We’re one of the most obese nations in the world, and this has a massive impact on our health system.

Mathew highlights a conversation on the immense benefits of exercise and activity for our physical and mental health. The following quote by Dr JoAnn Manson, Chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, highlights this sentiment:

"Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis, cognitive decline,[hypertension and obesity], and even depression, at minimal cost and with virtually no side effects.

"Can you imagine if there were a pill that could simultaneously have all those benefits?...

"A prescription to walk 30 minutes per day could be one of the most important prescriptions a patient could receive."

Mathew adds that it’s easier to continually move throughout our lives, rather than letting it lapse and having to get back into the swing of exercise, adding, “As we become older, it’s dangerous to fall over. Active older people have a much lower risk of falling.”

Encouragingly, Mathew feels that Gippsland is an excellent place to stay active, as his prescription for a good life here is to “have a sense of adventure and willingness to get out there”.

With that, Mathew jogs off to explore another corner of the region during his lunchtime dash.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 24

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