Physical Activity: Make Your Move!
New Year’s Day brings New Year’s resolutions. For many of us, those resolutions include losing weight and getting in shape. And key to both of those goals is getting enough physical activity.
If becoming more physically active is one of your New Year’s resolutions but you don’t know how to begin, you’re in luck: the Chief Medical Office recommends physical activity guidelines for all ages. Fortunately, many of us can breathe a sigh of relief because the guidelines don’t expect everyone to become a competitive athlete. Instead, the message is clear: To promote life-long health, minimise your time sitting, get moving, and stay active!
Benefits of Physical Activity
Being physically active has benefits for people of all ages. Below are just a few of the many benefits of physical activity for young people and adults.
Benefits for Children and Teenagers
- Better bone health
- Better weight status
- Better cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
- Lower risk of depression
- Better cognitive function
Benefits for Adults
- Reduced or slowed weight gain
- Lower risk for type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
- Better sleep
- Reduced anxiety and risk of depression
- Better bone health
- Decreased risk of cancers of the bladder, oesophagus, kidney, lung, stomach, breast, and endometrium
- Reduced risk of falls and fall-related injuries in older adults
- Better cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia
anatomical models and clear text to explain how inactivity harms health.
Adult Physical Activity Recommendations
Adults ages 19 and older should strive to be physically active every day, with a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Bouts of moderate-intensity physical activity should be performed in at least 10-minute increments. Moderate-intensity physical activity is any activity that gets you breathing harder but allows you to hold a conversation easily, such as brisk walking or cycling.
If you prefer, you can achieve comparable health benefits by performing vigorous-intensity physical activity for 75 minutes a week, such as running, swimming, or playing football. Vigorous-intensity physical activity means that you are working intensely enough so that you can say only a few words before you need to take a breath.
3-D models to show the benefits of physical activity and the consequences of inactivity.
As part of their weekly physical activity regimen, adults should also perform muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week, such as doing push-ups, using hand-held weights, or even carrying groceries.
In addition, at least 2 days a week, older adults (ages 65 and older) who are at risk of falls should perform activities that improve balance and coordination. Examples of balance- and coordination-improving activities include t’ai chi, yoga, practising standing from a sitting position, and walking heel-to-toe.
Look for ways to add more physical activity to your day, such as taking walk breaks at work, parking farther away from the store, using the stairs instead of the lift, or working in your garden. The goal is to move more and sit less throughout the day, every day.
Child and Teen Physical Activity Recommendations
Encouraging children to be active is a great way to help them develop the healthy habit of life-long, regular physical activity. If they see you engaging in and enjoying regular physical activity, they’ll want to follow your example. Make physical activity a fun, family affair!
Physical activity is important for the youngest of children, even for infants before they are able to walk. The Chief Medical Office recommends that parents and carers encourage physical activity for infants from birth with floor-based play and water-based activities in safe, supervised environments. Time spent restrained or sitting should be kept to a minimum. Supervised time spent on the stomach (“tummy time”) whilst reaching and grasping for objects is ideal for infants to develop motor skills and enhance bone, muscle, and cognitive development.
Pre-school age children (ages 3 to 5) who can walk should be active for a minimum of 3 hours a day spread over the course of the entire day. Young children’s activities can take place during active play or in structured activities, and activities can be light to more energetic. Activities such as jumping, hoping, and skipping help strengthen young bones. Sedentary behaviours, such as watching TV, travelling in a pushchair, or playing video games should be kept to a minimum.
moving whilst learning about the benefits of physical activity.
Children and young people ages 5 through 18 should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. At least 3 days a week, their activity should include vigorous-intensity physical activity, including muscle-strengthening activities and bone-strengthening activities. Bone-strengthening activities include weight-bearing activities, such as jumping rope and running.
Work with Your Healthcare Professional
The Chief Medical Office explains that, on a case-by-case basis, individual physical and mental capacities should be considered when interpreting the physical activity guidelines. If being more physically active is one of your New Year’s resolutions, work with your GP, practice nurse, or other healthcare professional to develop physical activity goals that are right for you. Make a commitment to regular physical activity. Remember: Everything you do that gets you moving helps keep you fit, so have fun, and get moving!
To learn more about our educational physical activity resources, please visit our Physical Activity Section.
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