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Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour

Physical Activity

Increasing physical activity is an important way to reduce chances of obtaining chronic disease. Health Canada points out that physical activity can:

  • prevent chronic diseases (cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease)
  • reduce stress
  • improve the heart and lung functioning
  • improve energy levels
  • reach and maintain healthy body weight
  • improve and individual’s outlook on life

Physical activity for health benefits means that adults should include some physical activity into your day, every day. A healthy physically active lifestyle for an adult aged 18 – 64 years means achieving the recommendations from the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of:

  • 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity of aerobic physical activity per week at least 10 minutes at a time.
  • including muscle and bone strengthening activities at least twice a week.
  • adding physical activity that we add provides greater health benefits.

A popular physical activity is walking. In promoting walking not only does the walkablility of a community increase physical activity levels but it also has environment and economic benefits in addition to health benefits.

The Provincial Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Team worked with the City of Calgary STEP FORWARD Pedestrian Strategy to develop an infographic summarizing the health benefits of walking. To see more information on walkable communities visit: ahs.ca/walk

Sedentary Behaviour

Sedentary behaviour is a unique behaviour that is separate from physical inactivity. Specifically, it’s sitting (or lying down) for prolonged periods of time when you are awake. Excessive sedentary behaviour can have negative effects your health.

A national study shows that Canadians spend, on average, up to a shocking 10 hours per day sitting. Evidence specific to Alberta shows that Albertans spend on average 9 hours on week days and 8.25 hours on weekends being sedentary. 1/3 of Albertans are sedentary for greater than 10 hours per day. Finding ways to break up times when you are sitting, and not moving around, is important to improve your health.

As a health professional promoting the reduction of sedentary behaviour, we must:

  • challenge the norm of sitting. We don’t think it’s bizarre to sit all day because everyone is doing it—but humans are not meant to sit all day.
  • modify our environments (and our thinking) so they are less supportive of excessive sitting.
  • discuss sedentary behaviour through health, behavioural, and cultural lenses.