Canadian adults are more active now than
20 years ago but according to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle
Research Institute more than half are still considered insufficiently active
for optimal health benefits. The amount of activity recommended
by Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines is at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise each week for adults, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. It is also beneficial
to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least 2 days a week. More physical activity provides greater health benefits.
tend to be both less active and less vigorously active than men.
Inactivity increases with age and is higher among less educated
and lower income groups. Walking is the most popular activity regardless
of age, followed by gardening, and home exercise.
An active lifestyle is key to maintaining a healthy weight and preventing
weight gain leading to obesity. Regular exercise has been shown
to improve control of blood lipids, diabetes, hypertension and obesity,
with the greatest benefits realized by sedentary individuals who
being to exercise. Regular physical activity can even be protective
in individuals who are classified as overweight or obese.
Regular exercise also helps us cope with stress and depression,
and improves our mental health and our sense of well being. It helps
us feel good about ourselves.
Activity levels typically decline with increasing age. As we become
less active we require fewer calories to maintain our body weight.
With aging there are also physiological changes which contribute
to changes in body composition such as decreased lean muscle mass
and increased body fat, especially around the middle. Menopause
is a particularly high risk time for weight gain in women. As we
age we need to make the adjustment to eat less food or be more active
or else weight gain will result.
Strength-training such as lifting weights or performing weight-resistance
exercises as little as twice a week can help maintain or increase
muscle mass. A body with a higher muscle mass will burn calories
at a higher rate than a body with more body fat.
Studies at Tufts University Research Center on Aging have shown
that regular strength-training helped older women increase their
muscle mass, increased muscle strength, and increased their bone
mass. Exercise is a key preventive action against osteoporosis.
Activities that are best for heart health include those that increase
your heart rate for a sustained period of time (e.g. 20 minutes
or more). Brisk walking, stair climbing, swimming, cycling, dancing
and jogging can all get your heart rate going.
When it comes to fitness, you have to make time to be active everyday.
Each activity you do during the day can be counted towards your
fitness goal of at least 150 minutes per week. The intensity of the
activity should be comparable to brisk walking.
Try to include a variety of different activities. Walking to the
store or mailbox, walking the dog, going for a bike ride, stretching
or doing calisthenics at home, playing racquet sports, dancing,
golf (if you walk, not ride), house cleaning, and even playing actively
with children all count.
For maximum health benefits, regular physical activity must go hand-in-hand
with a nutritionally balanced diet.
For books to help you get active check out the book review section
of this website.
To find a fitness formula that works for you check out Canada's
Physical Activity Guidelines.