If you're a newcomer to physical activity, you're not alone: 51% of Canadians are inactive. You're also in for a real treat, as physical activity is a powerful and fast-acting way to improve your mental and physical health. When combined with healthy eating, physical activity can help prevent weight gain and certain chronic diseases. Even better, the health benefits of exercise are most effective among beginners!
Always consult with a physician before beginning any new exercise program.
All adults should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity every day. Teens need more physical activity than adults, and should aim to be moderately active for at least 90 minutes a day. Sound daunting? Don't worry - an active lifestyle can include physical activity, exercise, or a combination of the two.
Physical activity means activity that is part of your daily life. The three most common types of physical activity are:
- Household physical activity, such as sweeping, vacuuming, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn and raking the leaves.
- Workplace physical activity, such as lifting boxes or walking for longer than 10 minutes.
- Lifestyle physical activity, such as carrying a basket of laundry to the Laundromat, walking the dog and going for a hike.
A person who is physically active reaps several benefits of strength, endurance and flexibility. For example, carrying groceries home in a backpack strengthens muscles in your back and chest, while walking for longer than 10 minutes can increase your cardiovascular health and endurance.
Exercise means physical activity that is planned, structured and deliberately done to improve strength, flexibility or endurance. This can include working out at a gym, or at home, playing volleyball, curling, or Ultimate Frisbee.
Whatever it is that you decide to do, it should be physically exerting. Your muscles will need time to recuperate, so it's a good idea to alternate exercise days.
For example, if you exercise on Monday, take Tuesday off. Rest time is very important as it allows your muscles to recover and build new tissue.
An example of an effective, safe exercise plan for one week might be:
- Whole body resistance training three days per week (two to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions)
- Example 1: 2 sets of 10 push-ups with a 2 minute break between sets.
- Example 2: 3 sets of 15 crunches, with a 1 minute break between sets. Make sure you stretch your muscles between sets.
- 30 minutes on a treadmill at 65 per cent of your maximum heart rate three days per week. Check out the Super Active section to determine how to find your heart rate.
- Whole body stretching exercises (see Stay Safe).