Regular physical activity offers many daily benefits. You may have more energy, get more fun out of life, cope better with stress, and sleep better. These benefits improve your quality of life and ability to do daily tasks. Regular exercise helps Canadians of all ages – from infants to the elderly! The earlier in life that we learn to include regular exercise, the easier it is to maintain life-long active living habits.
Though the benefits of exercise are well known, many Canadians find it difficult to include regular exercise in their busy and stressful lives. Why is starting and maintaining an active lifestyle so difficult? Some practical tips may help overcome your barriers to exercise.
Before starting an exercise program, talk with your family doctor. Make certain that there are no medical reasons why you should not start an exercise program. If you have a health concern, ask your doctor if adjustments will be needed for your exercise program.
Too little time
The solution to being too busy to exercise is simple – make time for exercise! Think of exercise time as a scheduled appointment that you cannot miss. Write it down in your weekly schedule, just as you would a doctor or dentist appointment.
Add exercise to your current schedule by including it as a part of your daily routines. For instance, walk, in-line skate, or bike instead of driving. Make your daily commute more active. If you must drive, consider driving only partway. Bike, walk or run the rest of the way to your destination. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a walk or do a few light stretches on your lunch or coffee break at work. If you take the bus, get off at an earlier or later stop and walk. Many household chores, such as mowing the lawn, gardening, washing the car, and vacuuming, increase your level of physical activity. Use technology – there are many web-based exercise programs that can be accessed with a smart phone, tablet or personal computer so that you can exercise anytime and anywhere.
You may be very busy, and as a result feel too tired to exercise. Try scheduling exercise earlier in the day. You will have more energy to exercise, and your energy level through the day will improve. The time when you feel most tired may be the best time to get up and do something physical. Exercise that requires only a little effort will often leave you feeling energized and refreshed.
One of the best ways to start and maintain regular exercise is to exercise with someone else. Find a family member, friend, or work colleague to exercise with you. Keep each other motivated. Join a running club, an exercise class at your local recreation centre or health club, or a recreational team sport. You will meet new people, get active, and learn new skills or refine old ones. Another way to stay motivated is to try a variety of activities. Doing something different can keep you interested and help prevent injury. No matter what exercise activities you choose, be sure you are having fun doing them!
Setting goals is a great way to keep motivated once you start exercising. Goals for an exercise program often include increasing speed, endurance and strength. Your goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, with a Time frame for completion. Start slowly and progress gradually. For instance, depending on your current fitness level, you could plan to walk two kilometres before running that distance. Or aim to do five kilometre fun runs before taking on a marathon. Once you set goals for your exercise program, write down your progress. This encourages you and let you know how much you have improved.
|0 to 4 years||180 minutes/day of physical activity||Less than one hour a day of screen time|
|5 to 17||60 minutes/day||3 days/week||Less than two hours a day of screen time|
|18 to 64||150 minutes/week||2 days/week|
|Over 65||150 minutes/week||2 days/week||Add balance exercises if at high risk of falling|
You may not feel comfortable starting to exercise or beginning a new activity. Joining a gym or exercise classes may be frightening. However, it is never too late to take the first step and learn a new skill. Consider getting help from an expert. Good advice about starting an exercise program is usually available at your local rec centre, club, or through a personal trainer.
Once you decide to start exercising, you may wonder how much you need to gain health benefits. The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) have created physical activity guidelines for different ages that explain the best amounts and types of exercise for health benefits. The table is a summary of the guidelines, according to type and duration of exercise. These guidelines can be found on the CSEP website: tinyurl.com/exerciseamount.
Remember, these are guidelines. You do not need to exercise at the recommended levels right away. Endurance and aerobic activities keep your heart and lungs in good health and improve circulation. The intensity of exercise should be moderate to vigorous for everyone above five years of age. Each session of exercise should be at least 10 minutes long. Strengthening activities develop muscular strength and endurance, and benefit bone health. Activities like heavy yard work and shovelling snow improve this area of fitness. A proper warm-up and good technique are important when working on strength, especially when lifting weights. Stretching and flexibility activities keep muscles and joints moving through their full range. Do these activities slowly and smoothly to avoid injury.
It is not difficult to include regular physical activity in your life.Instead of finding reasons to put off exercising, think about and find ways to start. Make changes that are small, gradual and varied. Build up to the recommended levels of activity. Above all, enjoy yourself and have fun!