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Being physically active is vital for overall health and well-being, and enhancing quality of life. The World Health Organization estimates that physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of death, responsible for an estimated:

  • 22-23% of heart disease
  • 16-17% of colon cancer
  • 15% of diabetes
  • 12% of strokes
  • 11% of breast cancer

Sedentary behaviour is defined by activities while awake that use 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs) of energy or less such as sitting while watching TV, playing video games, reading, using a computer, driving or riding in an automobile.

Canadians are spending an alarming amount of time in sedentary behaviours.  New studies suggest that the amount of time spent in sedentary behaviours may increase the risks for metabolic disorders, overweight and obesity, regardless of the amount of time spent in physically active behaviours.

Primary care professionals can play an important role by encouraging their patients to follow the Physical Activity Guidelines and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines to increase their daily physical activity levels and reduce sedentary time.  

 
 Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines
Early Years Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Infants (less than 1 year) recommend physical activity several times a daily--particularly through interactive floor-based play.

 

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Toddlers (1-2 years) and Preschoolers (3-4 years) recommend accumulating at least 180 minutes of physical activity, at any intensity, throughout the day, including; a variety of activities in different environments; activities that develop movement skills; and progression toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play by 5 years of age.

 

Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for 0 to 4 years recommend that parents and caregivers minimize the time infants (less than 1 year), toddlers (1-2 years) an preschoolers (3 - 4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours. This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g. stroller, high chair) for more than one hour at a time.

 

For those under 2 years, screen time (e.g. TV, computer, electronic games) is not recommended.

 

For children 2-4 years, screen time should be limited to under one hour per day; less is better.

 

Children & Youth

The new Canadian 24 hour movement guidelines for children and youth: An integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep.  For optimal health benefits, children and youth (aged 5–17 years) should achieve high levels of physical activity (at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and several hours of structured and unstructured light physical activities each day), low levels of sedentary behaviour (limited sitting and no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time), and sufficient sleep each day (uninterrupted 9-11 hours for 5-13 year olds, and 8-10 hours per night for 14-17 year olds - with consistent bed and wake-up times).

Adults

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults 18-64 years recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.

Older Adults

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults aged 65 years and older recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.

 

During Pregnancy

Regular physical activity is recommended as part of a healthy pregnancy. Consultation with a health care provider is advised before beginning. Link to the Physical Activity and Pregnancy section of the Healthy Pregnancy Guide (PHAC) for more information on physical activity during pregnancy.  You can also encourage your patients to complete the PARmed-X for Pregnancy screening tool for pregnant women to help them to determine their readiness for increased physical activity..

 

Special Populations 

Physical Activity Guideline for Adults with Multiple Sclerosis (pdf)

To achieve important fitness benefits, adults aged 18 – 64 years with multiple sclerosis who have mild to moderate disability need at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity 2 times per week, AND strength training exercises for major muscle groups, 2 times per week.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with Spinal Cord Injury (pdf)

For important fitness benefits, adults with a spinal cord injury should engage in at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity 2 times per week, AND strength training exercises 2 times per week.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Parkinson’s Disease (pdf)

Engaging in aerobic activity, along with other activities for strength, flexibility and balance, improves Parkinson’s symptoms and sense of well-being.

Order or Download Resources for Your Patients

Primary care professionals in Ontario can view the Canadian Guidelines online, download a PDF, or order from the full selection of Physical Activity Guidelines and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for different age groups from by following this link.

“It’s not one behaviour. It’s not one big change.” Infographic by Dr. Mike Evans. Made to reflect a healthy behaviour cascade, not in any order.

 

 

Benefits of regular activity: 

Health risks of inactivity: 

  • better health
  • improved fitness
  • better posture and balance
  • better self-esteem
  • weight control
  • stronger muscles and bones
  • feeling more energetic
  • relaxation and reduced stress
  • premature death
  • heart disease
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • type 2 diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • stroke
  • depression
  • colon cancer

 

Build physical activity into daily routines

 

Focus on these following key messages to encourage your patients to become more active:

  • Build physical activity into your everyday routine by using active transportation
  • Walk, cycle and wheel within reasonable distances to get to work, school, shopping or visiting friends
  • Skip the elevator -- use the stairs
  • Walk your kids to school
  • Take a walk break rather than a coffee break at work
  • Enjoy the outdoors year round - explore the many kilometers of Simcoe Muskoka Trails.
     
 Reduce sedentary time throughout the day
 

Focus on these following key messages to encourage your patients to reduce their sedentary time:

  • An important first step is to be more mindful about being less sedentary. There are lots of ways to remind yourself to move about during the day, such as using a screen saver or a beeper.
  • Stand up, move around and stretch more often at home, or at your desk, or workplace.
  • Reduce time watching TV, or do some physical activity while watching your favourite program, and get up and move during commercial breaks.
  • Take active breaks during your work day (e.g. go for a short walk on your breaks, and/or a longer walk on lunch hours).
  • Visit co-workers in person, rather than sending e-mail for everything.
  • Call a walking meeting with co-workers; walk indoors or outside. The more you know (and do) about being less sedentary, the more you’ll benefit and lead by example for others - family members, children, work colleagues.

  

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