The following is an excerpt from my book, Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day.* As a Canadian, I researched and wrote about Canadians’ physical activity levels, or lack thereof. But the shockingly high levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are seen across the globe. Indeed, the newest physical activity guidelines for Americans emphasize that every minute of movement counts, and they should sit less and move more.(1)
How Much Do Canadians Move Every Day?
Our bodies were designed to move, but how much do most Canadians actually move every day? Not enough, according to healthcare experts. And it’s costing us as a nation to the tune of 3.7 per cent of overall health-care spending.(2)
The World Health Organization defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.”(3) I don’t see anything in that definition that mentions sweating, special clothing, “feeling the burn,” or expensive gym memberships. What it does tell us is that movement—any movement—is physical activity. You need to move your muscles, or you will lose them. It’s not rocket science, people!
Increasing the physical activity of Canadians would save lives—in excess of 6,600 premature deaths, or 2.4 per cent of the national population over a 25-year period. What’s more, as a country that provides universal health care to its citizens, national healthcare costs and chronic conditions would decline with a modest increase in daily physical activity. We’re talking thousands of fewer cases of cancer (31,000), type 2 diabetes (120,000), heart disease (170,000), and hypertension (222,000).(4)
Regular movement—loading your muscles and bones by working against gravity and then walking away from your desk—is what your body needs. Statistics Canada crunched the numbers and reported that you’ll have a lower risk of premature death if you stand or walk around regularly, as opposed to staying seated for most of the day.(5)
So, how much should we move as Canadians? I’m glad you asked. Let’s have a look.
How Much Should Canadians Move Every Day?
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults need 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week to maintain optimal health.(6) In the “moderate” category, examples include brisk walking and bike riding, whilst in the “vigorous” category, jogging and cross-country skiing are listed.
So, why exercise? It improves your fitness, strength, and mental health (morale and self-esteem), and it reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity.(7)
These are the minimum guidelines for physical activity. However, Statistics Canada data indicates that only 15 per cent of adult Canadians meet these minimum requirements.(8) Broken down to a daily level, the minimum exercise requirements—which were measured with accelerometers—equate to 21.42 minutes of daily exercise.
What are Canadian adults doing with their time when they are not exercising? They’re being mostly sedentary, that’s what—over 9.5 hours per day, which accounts for 69 per cent of their waking hours.(9) And, as we saw earlier, too much sedentary behaviour is creating a global health-care crisis.
Even if you meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, sedentary behaviour in the remaining hours of your day is still detrimental to your health.(10) Those remaining hours are the focus of this book. I will help you add non-exercise activity in common sense ways. Consistent with my original goal when I first created The Move More Institute™, I will share easy to implement and low-cost or free options. Let’s go.
How Do You Accumulate Physical Activity?
Ready for some good news? The activity our bodies crave and need can happen in minuscule increments. Indeed, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that physical activity that was accumulated in sporadic bouts throughout the day still reduced the risk of early death.(11) The total amount of daily physical activity is more important than how you accumulate that activity.
What are your health or fitness goals? Disease prevention or injury prevention? Enjoyment of life? If you fall into one of these categories, there really is no need to go all out at the gym. For many people, their unspoken goals of fitness are basic to existence—prevent premature death and live life fully and pain-free. If you fall into this group, don’t despair about people who may have more specific or rigorous fitness goals. You can focus instead on accumulating small, sporadic bouts of movement throughout your day. Every little bit counts toward your total physical activity: walking to the store, taking the stairs, or getting up from your desk and pacing during a conference call. As I mentioned before when describing my mission with The Move More Institute™, I call them “snacks of exercise.” And these snacks don’t require fancy workout clothes or special equipment, or the need to shower before continuing your day. Every little bit of movement matters. Just ask actress Eva Marie Saint.
“Did you know I’m older than the Oscars? Just keep moving.”(12) Just. Keep. Moving. Those were the words Saint uttered at the 2017 Oscars. She was pondering the fact that the awards show was celebrating 90 years, and she was older at 93. And she looked fantastic, standing proudly, displaying every inch of her 5’4” frame—not stooped over and shuffling like many others later in their lives.
And she’s right, you know. There is no secret elixir for aging well. You just have to keep moving. No fancy equipment or expensive gym membership required!
You know the drill: Time for a break! You’ve been sitting long enough; time to get up and move. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here, waiting for you. Now go move your beautiful body!
If you enjoyed this excerpt, please consider buying the book. It’s available globally on Amazon and locally in Ottawa (contact me for more details).
*Copyright 2018 Amanda Sterczyk, all rights reserved
1. Katriana L. Piercy & Richard P. Troaino. "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans From the US Department of Health and Human Services." Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 11 (2018): 1-3. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.118.005263
2. Ian Janssen. “Health Care Costs of Physical Inactivity in Canadian Adults.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 37, no. 4 (2012): 803–806.
3. World Health Organization, Fact Sheet on Physical Activity, http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/. Reprinted with permission.
4. Hayley Wickenheiser, “We must move more to improve Canadians’ health,” Ottawa Citizen, March 15, 2017, http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/wickenheiser-we-must-move-more-to-improve-canadians-health.
5. Fares Bounajm, Thy Dinh, and Louis Thériault, Moving Ahead: The Economic Impact of Reducing Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2014): 15, http://sportmatters.ca/sites/default/files/content/moving_ahead_economic_impact_en.pdf.
6. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults—18–64 years, (first viewed October 10, 2017), http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf.
7. CSEP, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.
8. Rachel C. Colley et al., “Physical activity of Canadian adults: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey,” Health Reports 22, no. 1 (January 2011): 4, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011001/article/11396-eng.pdf.
9. Colley, “Physical activity of Canadian adults”, 4.
10. Carol Ewing Garber et al., “Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43, no. 7 (July 2011): 1334–1359, https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx.
11. Pedro F. Saint-Maurice et al., “Moderate‐to‐Vigorous Physical Activity and All‐Cause Mortality: Do Bouts Matter?” Journal of the American Heart Association (March 22, 2018), https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.007678.
12. “‘I’m older than the Academy’: Eva Marie Saint hands out Oscar at age 93,” CTV News, March 4, 2018, https://www.ctvnews.ca/i-m-older-than-the-academy-eva-marie-saint-hands-out-oscar-at-age-93-1.3828591.
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Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.