Active and healthy lifestyle programs

Active and healthy lifestyle programs can be as basic as promoting council’s existing parks and facilities by running physical activity programs to encourage more people to use the facilities. Programs can also contribute to and integrate with other key council objectives — such as educating the community on the environment, creating a sense of community and assisting with reducing traffic congestion by getting people out of cars and walking, cycling or catching public transport instead.

Following is information on programs implemented by councils around Australia, including tips and lessons learnt.

Brisbane City Council – Active and Healthy Brisbane Program

Brisbane City Council provides a broad and changing spectrum of physical activity and healthy eating participation opportunities designed to provide Brisbane residents with short term experiences with the intent of inspiring participants’ commitment to remaining active over the balance of life. Programs encourage participants to seek long-term participation in opportunites existing in the wider community. Includes Active Parks; Chill Out; GOLD;  GOLDnKids; Black Diamonds; RAW; Gonewalking; Get Wild; 10,000 Steps Brisbane.

The programs provide a range of city-wide activities with a focus on sectors of the community less likely to be engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviours, including specific population groups such as people from a low socioeconomic background, seniors, youth, women and Indigenous groups. The activities are usually free or low cost.

Examples of programs being provided by Brisbane City Council include:

  • Active Parks – fun activities for everyone in local parks, such as treasure hunts, group training courses and community farm activities
  • Black Diamonds – recreational, arts and sporting activities for young Indigenous people, such as leadership camps, and the Stylin UP music and dance event
  • Chill Out – recreation and leisure activities for young people aged 10 to 17 years, such as hip hop dancing and skateboarding workshops
  • Get Wild – nature-based activities held at various bushland and wetland locations, such as ranger guided walks and canoeing
  • GOLD (Growing Older and Living Dangerously) and GOLD n Kids activities for kids and their grandparents (or carers) – fun activities for people aged 50 years and over, such as dancing, go karting, yoga and tai chi
  • Gonewalking (in association with Heart Foundation) – regular group walks, such as:
    • bush walk – bushland walks with some uphill climbing
    • gardens and parklands walk – leisure walks exploring Brisbane’s parks
    • health and fitness walk – brisk walks that may include some hills
    • leisure walk – slower, less strenuous walks
    • parents with prams walk – leisure walks usually on flat ground
    • shopping centre walk – out-of-hours walks inside air-conditioned shopping centres
  • Real Adventure Women (RAW) – adventurous activities for women aged 16 years and over, such as learning how to kite surf and target archery
  • 10,000 Steps Brisbane – promotes incidental physical activity (walking) through social marketing and supportive environments, such as pedometers available for loan at libraries, community walking events and signage of local walking trails.

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Gold Coast City Council

The Gold Coast City Council runs a comprehensive Active and Healthy Program which encourages people to get more physically active in their community. The program incorporates physical activity programs, nutritional information talks and workshops, community engagement events and the Active Communities program. The Active and Healthy Program provides activity programs in Council parks and community facilities. Initiatives include:

  • Citywide Program – year long regular physical activity program of free or no cost activities, including:activities for everyone, such as group fitness classes, tai chi, yoga, pilates, boxing, meditation, walking groups, stretching and belly dancing
    • Activities for children, such as after school fun in the park, move and groove for 2 to 5 year olds, small sports, kids yoga
    • Activities for parents, such as pre-natal yoga, mums and bubs yoga, parents fitness fun, stroller groups, reactivation, pelvic floor workshop
    • Activities for seniors, such as fit and fabulous for over 50’s, mature aged exercise classes, dancing, Dr Cornish walking program, young at heart yoga, swimming
    • Activities for people with disabilities, such as drumming workshops, wheelchair basketball, super kids, rhythm and groove workshops
    • Multi cultural program
    • Weekend experiences for families, such as make and fly a kite workshops, kayaking, mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, rock climbing, circus fun
    • Just Walk Me Program for animal owners
    • 10,000 steps library loan scheme and park signage
    • Various library talks and workshops of healthy eating, healthy ageing, move it or lose it
  • School Holiday Program – large holiday program that operates that provides free and low cost activities across the city in holiday periods. Activities include mad sports, free fun in the park, kids yoga, stakeboarding and BMX workshops, laser skirmish, fit kids, urban survivor, surfing, belly dancing
  • Vibe Youth Activation Program – range of adventure and creative based workshops and programs designed for young people from 12 to 18 years. Activities include: laser skirmish, photography workshops, wake boarding, surfing, mountain biking, kayaking, and Coastal Skate and BMX jams.
  • Gold Coast Parks Programs – a range of nature based programs are offered by various departments in parks, including free trees, community gardens, community education workshops on environment and conservation topics, botanical gardens
  • Active and Healthy Events – provide support to various community groups in running community events, such as neighbourhood watch days, animal welfare events, aged care events and expos, children expos. Run a range of community events including youth week, come fly a kite day, gardens alive and opening of parks
  • Active and Healthy Communities – a community renewal program in Labrador in association with Department of Communities. It aims to provide active and healthy opportunities in local parks, green spaces and community venues to encourage local residents to be more active in their community.  The initiative includes a 10,000 Steps Labrador Heritage Walk
  • Gold Coast Physical Activity Alliance – a coalition of stakeholders dedicated to the advancement of physical activity initiatives within all sectors, at all levels and within all communities on the Gold Coast. Initiatives include 10,000 steps program, Get Active Web Site and Gold Coast Physical Activity Plan 2009-2015.
  • Get Active Gold Coast is a website that allows residents to search for activities, parks, clubs, organisations, and active and healthy programs. Searches are by date or activity and residents can add activities to the directory. Healthy eating and getting active information is also included (see

For more information on Gold Coast City Council programs and activities email: or phone (07) 5581 5233.

Key success factors in implementing active and healthy lifestyle programs include:

  • Ensuring program objectives and design align with organisational vision and goals
  • Defining target groups for active and healthy lifestyle programs
  • Developing a marketing strategy that outlines appropriate methods to reach target groups
  • Developing relationships with community-based organisations that may have an interest in supporting the activities
  • Involving people from a range of backgrounds in planning and staging the activities
  • Ensuring people from a range of backgrounds feel comfortable participating in activities
  • Using premises and activities that are accessible to people with disabilities
  • Adopting policies on the management of discrimination, including racism, sexism and bullying
  • Distributing information about the activities in diverse forms through a range of mediums, such as fliers, community radio, local press and ethnic press
  • Running activities that are not difficult to access due to cost or location
  • Conducting activities close to public transport
  • Evaluating the impact of the programs being implemented.

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Lessons learnt

Key lessons learnt in implementing active and health lifestyle programs include:

  • Partnering with state government and local community organisations to the delivery and sustainability of activities
  • Ensuring programs have a physical activity focus rather than only establishing social networks (important but a different objective to getting more people active). Activities need to have physical activity as a core component
  • Focusing on infrastructure provision and not just programs. There is an opportunity to target areas where low participation rates exist. This may include improving the use of existing parks, for example improve facilities within the park, such as a concrete slab and shelter, toilets, drinking fountains and security
  • Integrating with active transport programs which is good target for men who generally have lower participation rates than women in group programs, for example  highlight commuter bicycle routes on a recreation ride
  • Integrating park and sport facility planning into land use planning, infrastructure planning and development application processes
  • Filling gaps not met by other organisations, rather than council providing activities which are delivered by others
  • Considering how people will be accessing the parks and provide information on how they can walk, cycle or catch a bus to the activity or park
  • Considering the reservation of spaces in youth programs for ‘youths at risk’
  • Marketing needs to be consistent and focussed on target groups
  • Acknowledging that attendance figures are not always the best measure of success, focus on getting inactive people more active for longer
  • incorporating strategies to ensure sustainability of opportunities for physical activities, for example use local providers, use community providers and include repeat or continuous (course) activities rather than one off activities
  • Using web-based information systems for community members to easily access information on parks and their activities. Web systems can be developed so a user enters their residential address and information on the nearest park and activities are provided.  For example, allows community members to search for events in parks by date, suburb, category and activity intensity.

Case Studies