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THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO ENJOY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY!

Physical activity can be a fun, energizing, and yes, an enjoyable part of your life. It’s a great way to meet new people, spend time with family, strengthen friendships, bond with co-workers, or enjoy quality time with yourself.

Not only that, it can improve your mood, help you sleep better, and make you feel better about yourself. Plus, it provides many other health benefits including reducing your risk for certain chronic diseases. Are you thinking about making physical activity a bigger part of your life? Use this decision-making sheet to help identify your motivation for making a change.

Health Condition Specific Information

Choose from one of the health conditions below to see how lifestyle choices can impact your risk of developing that health condition.

I’M CURIOUS ABOUT TRYING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – HOW DO I START?

There are ways to add physical activity to your routine without it feeling like another item has been added to your to-do list. You don’t have to join a gym or go to fitness classes. Find activities you enjoy and perhaps do them with a buddy. That may be your recipe for success.

Keep reading to find out what counts as physical activity, how you’ll feel while doing physical activity, and how much physical activity is enough.

WHAT IS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?

Physical activity is moving your body to make your heart rate and breathing increase. You could do this while working, playing, dancing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and while enjoying recreation time.

WHAT SHOULD I FEEL WHEN I’M DOING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?

While all physical activity can be good for your health, moderate to vigorous physical activity provides the greatest health benefits. Explore the graphic below to learn more about the different types of activity.

Sleeping is the most rested state a person can be in and is at the lowest end of the activity levels.

Sedentary behaviours involve sitting or lying down while awake with little movement. Examples include sitting at work or watching TV on the couch at home. Sitting while driving is also a sedentary behaviour.

Light activities may cause slightly elevated breathing and heart rates for some adults. Talking during light activity would normally feel comfortable.

Moderate activities cause adults to sweat a little and to breathe a little harder. Examples include brisk walking, mowing the lawn or bike riding. Talking during moderate activity may require occasional pauses in conversation to "catch your breath".

Vigorous activities cause adults to sweat and feel out of breath. Examples include jogging, swimming, playing basketball or cross-country skiing. Talking during vigorous activity would normally be difficult.

HOW MUCH PHYSICAL ACTIVITY SHOULD I DO?

Remember, any amount of physical activity can be good for your health, giving you energy and confidence. It’s important to think about where you are starting from. If you rarely do physical activity, it’s important to start off will a small change. Going for a 10-minute walk after lunch or after supper may be good place to start. But – maybe 10 minutes is too much to start with for you. It’s okay to start with a 1-2 minute walk. Pick a time that works for you and commit to it. Focus on one small change, and then build on your success. Remember, you are in charge. It may be easier to find shorter periods of time for physical activity here and there during your day, rather than longer periods.

In time, you can strive to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines:

For Adults 18-64 Years
  • To achieve health benefits, accumulate 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
  • It’s also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least 2 days per week.
  • More physical activity provides greater health benefits.
For Adults 65 and Older
  • To achieve health benefits, and improve functional abilities, accumulate 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week.
  • It’s also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least 2 days per week.
  • More physical activity provides greater health benefits.
  • Those with poor mobility should perform physical activities to enhance balance and prevent falls.

10

minutes

Scheduling physical activity is easier when you get to decide how many minutes you want to schedule in. Work towards 10-minute periods of physical activity – but start with a number that works for you.

HOW CAN I FIT MORE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INTO MY LIFE?

Let’s look at a few people’s lives and see how they made changes to increase their level of physical activity. These people focused on doing a little more than they were doing before. That’s your path to success. It might be as simple as committing to one 10-minute walk per week (or less) to start or taking the family to the park with a ball on a Sunday afternoon. Keep the ball moving around and ensure everyone is involved. Perhaps you start taking the stairs at work on Tuesdays, going for a walk at lunch on Thursday, or parking at the far end of the lot when you go to the grocery store on Saturdays.

Below are a few examples of how small increases in physical activity can be added to different lives.

  • Geeta is a 72-year-old retiree who doesn’t do much physical activity. She plans to meet her friend, Riva, for a 10-minute walk on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday mornings. This small change will get her moving more on these days – and provide an opportunity to spend time with a friend.
  • Jill is a 30-year-old working mom with one young child and one more child on the way. She wants to keep moving and reduce her stress level. She chooses to do a prenatal yoga class. Having this one hour class provides her with that perfect blend of scheduled “me time”, stress reduction, and movement. She looks forward to feeling renewed after her class.
  • Aleksander is a 38-year-old dad with two small children. He works full-time in an office setting. He commits to making after dinner time “active play time” with his children. That helps them (and himself) move in the evenings, laugh, and get a better sleep. He looks forward to spending time with his kids by having fun together at the park or in the yard. Aleksander found some great game ideas for all ages on the Bring Back Play website. They even had some games that he remembered from when he was a boy.
  • Sherri is a second-year university student juggling courses, a part-time job, and a lot of studying. She decides to use her fitness centre membership (included in her school fees) and plans to workout with a buddy for three 30-minute physical activity sessions per week. They’ll do one indoor cycling class, one water aerobics class, and one resistance training workout. They schedule this time in their calendars (with reminders) and are accountable to each other to have fun together while getting some physical activity.

These are just a few examples of ways you can change your schedule to increase your physical activity. Plan to be active with someone else and enjoy the fun you’re having – with a side of physical activity.

HOW CAN I MAKE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY FUN AND SOCIAL?

You may remember a time when physical activity was neither scheduled nor work – especially as kids. Today, the message we often receive on the Internet and in our movies and magazines, is that going to the gym to lift weights and taking intense fitness classes are the only ways to be physically active. But there is more to physical activity. What if you’re able to make physical activity fun? It’s up to you to decide what “fun” is. Here are some examples to help you generate your own list of ways to have fun while being physically active.

Making physical activity social is one way to keep things fun. Try an activity with a friend, co-worker, family member, or community members. Another option is to enjoy physical activity in a large group. Enjoying conversation and laughter while being physically active makes it something you’ll always look forward to doing.

Here are some ideas for fun activities you could do to move more:

  • Enjoy outdoor activities like geocaching
  • Do an urban scavenger hunt
  • Play with your kids
  • Join a sports team
  • Dance to your favourite music
  • Go for a bike ride

3 TIPS TO CREATING SUCCESSFUL CHANGE

  1. MAKE A PLAN, SET GOALS, AND TRACK PROGRESS

    Use these simple goal setting and planning forms to help build your physical activity plan. They will help you identify small changes to start with and ways to overcome barriers you’ve identified to being active.

  2. BUDDY UP

    Buddy up with a friend, family member, or colleague who would like to spend time with you playing, laughing, and having fun! Find opportunities to connect with others through your neighbourhood association, at a recreation centre, or by searching the Internet.

  3. REWARD YOURSELF

    Don’t forget to reward yourself while you’re active and when you’ve achieved your goals. During the activity focus on what you like about it or the situation - maybe it's being with a friend, having fun, or enjoying being outside. Once you’ve achieved your goal, recognize how you made a good plan, overcome barriers, and managed to fit more physical activity into your life.

HOW DO I DEAL WITH ROAD BLOCKS TO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?

You’re ready to increase your physical activity. You have a plan, you have a buddy, and then life happens. Encountering barriers to physical activity is common – and there are solutions to help you get back on track.

Barrier

Solution

If I think I don’t have time…

I will remind myself that being active doesn’t take as much time as I think it might – that doing a few minutes of physical activity is better than nothing. I will also remember how great I feel after even just a few minutes of physical activity.

If I’m feeling tired…

I will remind myself to try short bouts of physical activity to boost my energy level, even if it’s only for a few minutes to start. I will move at different times during the day when I have more energy. I will try different activities and use physical activity as an opportunity to socialize with friends.

If my usual routine has changed due to an illness, a holiday, a family situation…

I will remind myself that physical activity can be adapted to my life. I will consider this new situation and think of a way I can still be physically active. I can always do something.

If I just don’t feel like being active…

I will remind myself that it’s okay to not want to do physical activity sometimes. Some days I might have other priorities or just ‘not feel like it.’ I will remember how good I feel when I do physical activity and get back to my physical activity routine the next day.

If I am uncomfortable with other people watching me do physical activity…

I will remind myself that I don’t have to do physical activity in front of others. I can do physical activity at home or in a park when it’s not busy. I will remind myself that people around me are focusing on their own activity and not what I’m doing. I’m doing physical activity for me.

If I don’t like sweating…

I will remind myself sweating is a natural process – it’s our body’s built in air conditioner. I will consider trying physical activity in a swimming pool because I don’t feel sweaty when I’m in a swimming pool. I will double check that I’m not wearing too many layers of clothing which may be causing more sweating. I will look at clothing that is made to wick sweat away from my body and keep me cool. I will ensure that I have a towel with me to wipe the sweat away from my skin.

You may encounter barriers to physical activity that aren’t listed above. What are they? Make a list of what your barriers may be and try and think of ways to work through them. This is a great activity to do with a buddy.

BEFORE YOU START

Clothing and equipment

Depending on what physical activity you choose to do, you may or may not need specific clothing or equipment. Some forms of physical activity do require safety equipment. For example, wearing a helmet when riding a bike.

Do you know what activity can be done by most people, at most times, and in most places – without special clothing and equipment? Walking. Walking may be the easiest activity for you to start with – and it’s free!

Before You Begin

You may be familiar with this phase, “before beginning any physical activity program, always consult your doctor.” That’s no longer necessary in all cases.

If you’re generally healthy and your doctor hasn’t told you to limit your physical activity (or avoid it all together), you’re likely okay to start right away, especially with lower intensity activities like walking.

If you’re unsure, you can complete a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. It’s a simple survey to help you determine if you should consult a qualified exercise professional or your doctor before becoming physically active.

You don’t need to hire a qualified exercise professional if you want to start walking. But if you’re interested in receiving additional support and guidance on incorporating more physical activity into your life, consult one. Contact your local recreation centre to find a qualified exercise professional and ask about their qualifications and services – or search fitdirectory.ca.

Even if you have a chronic disease, appropriate physical activity will likely be a recommendation from your health care professional. Ask your health care professional how physical activity can help you manage chronic diseases.

WHY SHOULD I BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE?

If having more energy, being more social, and making everyday tasks easier aren’t reason enough to be physically active, there are amazing physical and mental health benefits too, in fact, there’s a great expression, “exercise is medicine.” Being active for at least 150 minutes per week can help reduce the risk of: premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, overweight and obesity. Be active, and enjoy better health.