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Physical Activity

“Making healthy changes does not mean you have to start running marathons.”
Canadian Cancer Society, Eat Well, Be Active
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Daily activity can be part of everybody's lifestyle. A good way to start is by setting a goal, such as integrating an extra 30 or 60 minutes of physical activity into your life, whether at school, at home, at work, or in your community.

Research shows that healthy and active kids maintain good habits into adulthood.

BC's Physical Activity Services provides free advice to British Columbians wishing to increase their level of physical activity. An interactive map of walks in BC is available at www.WalkBC.ca

Schools needing resources for increasing students' physical activity can find information on the Action Schools BC website.

Moving more

Moving your body more includes carrying out everyday activities – such as doing housework, grocery shopping or walking to work. It's also important to schedule exercise into your weekly activities. 

Different types of physical activity are important:

  • Aerobic physical activities (also known as cardio) increase your heart rate and make you breathe harder. Examples include walking, dancing or playing basketball. In general, during moderate-intensity activity you will be able to talk, but not sing. During vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
  • Strengthening activities work your muscles and bones using resistance or weight (including your own body weight). Examples include lifting weights, doing push-ups or using resistance bands. Many activities, such as running, are both aerobic and strengthening.

Regular physical activity is good for your lifelong health. Benefits include:

  • reducing your risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • strengthening your mental wellness by improving mood, reducing stress, and helping you sleep better
  • helping you achieve and maintain a healthy  weight
  • improving flexibility, strength and balance, which can help prevent falls

The information provided below reflects the Canadian physical activity guidelines for different ages and stages of life. 

During pregnancy

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) advises that during a low risk pregnancy, exercise is safe. Talk to your care provider about what is right for you.


If you're already a regular exerciser, you can continue exercising throughout your pregnancy. Some modifications are recommended:

  • avoid activities where you might lose your balance and fall, especially later in your pregnancy;
  • don't overdo it – you should be able to comfortably maintain a conversation during exercise. If you can't do this, reduce your intensity.

Pregnancy is a time when many people want to improve their health habits. This may mean starting to exercise. If you were not active before you became pregnant, you should start slowly. The SOGC recommends beginning with 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week. Gradually increase to 30-minute sessions four times a week.


For infants

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that babies under 12 months old should be active several times each day. Depending on your baby's age, activities can include "tummy time" on the floor, reaching for and holding toys, rolling on the floor and crawling.


Resources
 

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that:

  • Toddlers and preschoolers (one to four years of age) should be active for at least 180 minutes (three hours) each day. Any activity that gets your child moving – playing at home, exploring the outdoors, dancing, etc. – is considered physical activity. It's important to include a variety of activities in different environments (e.g. playing with toys, going to the park or community centre).
  • School-aged children & youth (aged 5-17 years) should achieve high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour, and sufficient sleep each day. A healthy 24 hours includes:
    • Uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for 5-13 year olds and 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night for 14-17 year olds, with consistent bed and wake-up times
    • At least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities and muscle and bone strengthening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week
    • Several hours of structured and unstructured light physical activities
    • No more than 2 hours per day of screen time (TV, tablet, phone, etc.)
    • Limited sitting for extended periods 
Resources
 

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that:

  • Youth up to age 17 years should achieve high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour, and sufficient sleep each day. A healthy 24 hours includes:
    • Uninterrupted 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night for 14-17 year olds, with consistent bed and wake-up times
    • At least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities and muscle and bone strenghtening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week
    • Several hours of structured and unstructured light physical activities
    • No more than 2 hours per day of screen time (TV, tablet, phone, etc.)
    • Limited sitting for extended periods

  • Starting at age 18, young people should follow recommendations for adults. You should get at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. Any activity that you do for 10 minutes or more counts towards your weekly total. It's also good to add strengthening activities at least two days per week.
Resources


 

If you're an adult, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that you get at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. Any activity that you do for 10 minutes or more counts towards your weekly total. It's also good to add strengthening activities at least two days per week.


Resources


 

If you're over the age of 65, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that you get at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. Any activity that you do for 10 minutes or more counts towards your weekly total. It's also good to add strengthening activities at least two days per week.


If you have poor mobility, you should focus on physical activities that improve your balance and prevent falls.


Resources


 

Sitting less

When you sit or lie down for a long period of time, this is called sedentary behaviour.

Sedentary behaviour is different than not getting enough exercise. If you spend most of your day sitting, you are still at risk for health problems even if you are physically active for 30 – 60 minutes each day.

Common sedentary behaviours include:

  • sitting for long periods of time at school or work;
  • using a computer or phone;
  • driving or commuting;
  • reading;
  • watching television.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has developed guidelines for ways children and youth can reduce their sitting time. 

For young children (ages 0-4 years):

  • minimize the time infants (aged less than 1 year), toddlers (aged 1–2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3–4 years) are sedentary during waking hours;
    • limit prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) to one hour at a time.
  • avoid screen time (e.g., TV, computer, electronic games) for children under 2 years;
  • limit screen time to under one hour a day for children 2–4 years.

For children and teens (ages 5-17):

  • limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day;
  • limit sedentary (motorized) transport;
  • limit extending sitting and time spent indoors.

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