After 10 years, the United States has updated their physical activity guidelines, suggesting that Americans should move more and sit less – and it’s all thanks to new scientific evidence that suggests there are many more benefits to physical activity than what was known previously. As a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary also encourages Canadians to stay as physically active as they possibly can in order to reap the many benefits.

First, it starts with childhood. The earlier children are taught the importance of exercise, the more likely they are to have a better quality of life and a significantly reduced risk of developing health problems as they get older. Previous guidelines suggested that children should begin exercising around 6 years of age, while the new guidelines recommend children should stay physically active throughout the day as early as age 3 through 5, as this will help further enhance their growth and development. When it comes to children over the age of 6 all the way through their teenage years (up until age 19), it’s recommended that they get at least one-hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis, which should include a combination of aerobic exercises, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening.

Adults should also avoid living sedentary lifestyles – and some physical activity is better than not getting any at all. Even with moderate physical activity, you can reap the benefits. However, to notice a considerable change, adults should try to get at least 150 to 300 minutes worth of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, 75 minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activity; and, like children, it’s also recommended that adults incorporate muscle-strengthening activity into their exercise routine for 2 or more days per week. For older adults (such as seniors, for example), the same guidelines apply, although it’s also recommended that balance training also be included as part of their physical activity routine. Whether you decide to do moderate or vigorous activity should solely depend on how you feel and what your level of fitness is, and you should also take into account any chronic conditions you have and how they might affect your ability to engage in safe physical activity. If you do happen to have chronic or underlying health conditions, it’s always a good idea to double check with your physician before starting a new exercise routine, as he or she may also make some recommendations. When switching up your exercise routine, it’s also a good idea to be aware of how you can reduce the risk of injuries. As mentioned, older adults should choose exercises that are appropriate for their age, current fitness level, and health. If you’re increasing your activity level, do so gradually by starting with lower intensity workouts, then slowly increase the intensity and length over time. If necessary, wear the proper sporting gear and choose the right sporting equipment (such as wearing a helmet if bike riding) to also reduce your risk of injuries, such as concussions.

By implementing these new guidelines, children and adults should see improved bone health, improved cognitive function, reduced anxiety and depression, improved sleep, a reduced risk of fall-related injuries, reduced weight, and even a reduced risk of developing cancer.

For more information on the U.S. exercise guidelines, click here.
For information Canadian exercise guidelines, click here.