Physical activity can happen at home, at school, at work, during leisure time and while moving from place to place. Being physically active can be enjoyable, has huge health benefits and improves the quality of life for all individuals. It not only strengthens the body, but also makes people feel good about themselves, reduces stress, strengthens the heart and lungs, and helps prevents non-communicable chronic diseases.
Physical activity is any movement of the body produced by skeletal muscles that requires the expenditure of energy (Common Vision, 2018). It can include a range of movements throughout the day that can range from light to moderate to vigorous intensity. Physical activity can include sport and recreational activities, taking the stairs at work, playing outside, walking to school, doing household chores, active commuting as well as land-based activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering.
When speaking about physical activity, we must also remember to talk about sedentary behavior. Sedentary behaviour is any behaviour when awake, that requires little to no energy and occurs while sitting or lying down. It can also occur at work, at school sitting at a desk for a long period of time or at home while engaging in screen time.
Limiting and breaking up sedentary behavior by fitting in movement of any form throughout the day is important for your overall health and well-being.
Physical activity and mental health go hand in hand. Individuals who are physically active are less stressed, are happier and more resilient. Being active everyday can boost our “feel-good” chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) in our bodies, while reducing our stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) in our bodies. Physical activity helps your blood circulate throughout your body, which can relieve stress, anxiety, depression and anger. Being more physically active throughout the day, whether on your own or with friends and family can literally boost your mood and can make you feel better. If you move more, more often, you’ll reap the benefits.
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (18+) recommend that for health benefits, adults should be physically active each day, minimize sedentary behaviour, and achieve sufficient sleep. We can achieve this by doing a variety of types and intensities of physical activity (light, moderate, vigorous), including 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week and several hours of light physical activities that includes standing. Muscle strengthening activities, using major muscle groups, should also occur at least twice a week and for adults 65+ consider adding activities that challenge balance, such as leg lifts, tai chi, or sit to stand activities.
It is also recommended that adults get 7 to 9 hours of good-quality sleep on a regular basis, with consistent bed and wake-up times and to limit sedentary time to 8 hours or less a day. The Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines encourage no more than 3 hours of recreational screen time and breaking up long periods of sitting (such as sitting at a desk) as much as possible throughout the day.
To help you stay active and healthy, visit the ParticipACTION website for things you can do to move more everyday.