The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, but unfortunately only 20 per cent of Canadians meet this standard. In reality Canadians are falling desperately short when it comes to maintaining their physical fitness. Where can we start to achieve this guideline of 150 minutes of exercise per week?
A life devoid of exercise:
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with poorer health and inactivity is responsible for nearly one in 10 premature deaths. Prolonged sitting itself can contribute to the risk of illness and death.
You lose out on the benefits of endorphins that your body releases during exercise. This is like a “Happy Pill” to help with your mental wellness and much more.
Benefits of Exercise:
Why does exercise have such a profound effect on health?
- First off, the more fit you are, the less likely you are to have high blood pressure or a heart attack.
- Exercise may also reduce the risk of stroke and it improves the regulation of sugar in the body, staving off diabetes.
- It also provides protection against a variety of cancers, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. Physical activity keeps fat deposits in check and builds muscles and bones, making the elderly less likely to sustain hip fractures.
- In this increasingly hectic world, exercise can keep us centred by reducing anxiety, depression and overall stress.
150 minutes of exercise per week?
We know that exercise is good for you. Is the target of 150 minutes a week realistic given that only 20% of Canadians meet this target?
The evidence says no — a little exercise is great, more is better and you don’t need to be a triathlete to garner major health benefits.
Where can we start with exercise?
Fortunately, a number of large studies have helped clarify some key questions about dosing exercise to achieve maximal benefits. These studies provide insight into the value of exercising less than the 150 minutes per week standard, as well as whether very high levels of exercise are harmful. It can also suggest at what point exercising more doesn’t seem to add much to your health benefits.
The data comes from millions of subjects followed in the U.S., Taiwan and Australia for well over a decade. Two key studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These studies included a wide mix of people including the elderly, active runners and of course, couch potatoes.
- First, there are measurable but small benefits with minimal activity — some of the key studies show an impact with as little as eight minutes a day. However, increasing activity to 15 minutes/day (100 minutes/week) is needed to extend the lifespan by about three years.
- Second, there is serious benefit to ramping it up, with more activity directly contributing to better health and a longer life. In the Taiwanese study, every 15 minute of increase in daily exercise carried a four per cent increase in longevity. This effect peaks around 90 to 100 minutes a day, beyond which there is no substantial health benefit.
- Finally, people often fear that when they finally hoist themselves off the couch, exercise could cause a heart attack or other serious health event. It’s definitely important to proceed safely, particularly for those with existing heart disease, but the risks pale in comparison to the potential benefits. Consult with your doctor before you start exercising if you have not been before.
Don’t be discouraged if 150 minutes per week doesn’t seem obtainable at first; more is better but even a little is good. Give yourself the credit for making the effort to take care of your body and start this journey of a healthy life with the benefits of new experiences, friends and challenges.
If you’re not sure where to start with your exercise routine, book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists who will guide you on an exercise program.