If you think it’s just kids and teens getting too much screen time these days, think again. How many hours a day do you spend in front of your computer, on your phone, or watching TV? Probably more than you think.
In its first-ever report card, Participaction, an organization promoting active healthy living, has given Canadians over the age of 18 a D for overall physical activity, finding most are far too sedentary and fall short on getting the heart-pumping activity they need for their health. In fact, adults get an F when it comes to moderate-to-vigorous activity, with the report finding that only 16 per cent of adults get the recommended 150 minutes each week.
In many ways, being active has been engineered out of our lives. We drive to work; we sit at desks; etc. The key to increasing physical activity, is to engineer it right back — by making it part of our everyday routines. Easy ways to do this include walking the kids to school instead of driving them, hopping off public transit a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way; and running errands on foot instead of taking the car. These simple measures alone can make a significant impact on our health. Since heart-pumping activity (activity that raises your heart rate to the point that you would have difficulty carrying on a conversation with the person next to you) is also important, it’s important to consider the many ways you can get more of this type of activity on a regular basis. A dance class, jumping rope, a game of tennis, lane swimming, a brisk I-mean-business walk each evening after dinner, badminton at your community centre, or an aquafit class a few times a week, are all good options. It’s also important to remember that when it comes to exercise, it all counts — so if you can only squeeze in 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening, it’s perfectly fine. Think about it: just 20 minutes a day of heart-pumping activity a day, each day of the week, and you’ll be almost at the 150 minutes you need weekly. As your fitness increases, before long you’ll be able to exercise for longer at this intensity and you’ll find yourself meeting or exceeding this 150-minute minimum with ease.
The report card also suggests that adults who put in more than 7,500 steps per day likely meet the guidelines, but that only 52 per cent of adults do this. Use your phone or a pedometer for a few days to see how many steps you take on average and as you walk, be mindful about picking up the pace whenever you can. Get that heart pumping!
Physical inactivity can lead to increased risk of chronic diseases, cognitive decline, falls and social isolation among older adults — each of these alone is a good reason to get moving. It’s also recommended that adults aged 18 to 64 incorporate weight and bone strengthening activities at least twice a week, while older adults should also work on improving balance to help prevent falls.