Most of us are aware of benefits of exercise and physical activity. This includes physical benefits to decrease risk of developing chronic disease and improve or maintain preexisting health condition. There are also mental benefits to enhance brain function, and emotional wellbeing; and psychosocial benefits by creating an opportunity to partake in group activities, socializing, meeting new people and feeling part of a community. Combination of these benefits, among many others, have proven to improve health and quality of life.
Even though we know the positive relationship between exercise and health, most of us are uncertain how much exercise and what type of exercise to perform. Below, I outline the physical activity guidelines for distinct age groups as recommended by the Canadian, US and UK physical activity guidelines. There are also links at the bottom to deepen your understanding. This is a dense topic, so grab your cup of tea and let’s get started!
Infants < 1 year (who are not yet mobile)
- Engage in interactive floor-based play when awake
- Aim at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake
- Good quality sleep with naps: 14 to 17 hours (0 to 3 months old) and 12-16 hours (4 to 11 months old)
- Limit to less than 1 hour time in stroller or high chair.
- Avoid screen time.
Children (1-4 years)
- Aim at least 180 minutes or 3 hours of activity spread throughout the day.
- Adult caregiver should encourage active play that includes a variety of activities
- Good quality sleep that aligns with routine bedtimes and wake-up times: 11-14 hours (1-2 years) and 10-13 hours (3-4 years)
- Limit to less than 1 hour per day sitting time and screen time
Children and Adolescents (4-17 years)
- Aim for light physical activity throughout the day. Out of this, aim for at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity. Aim at least 3 days/week of vigorous activities like aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening exercises.
- Good quality sleep that aligns with routine bedtimes and wake-up times: 9-11 hours (5-13years) and 8-10 hours (14-17 years)
- Limit extended sitting time
- Limit to less than 2 hours per day of screen time
Adults (18-64 years) and older adults (+65 years)
- Aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity physical activity or an equivalent combination of moderate to vigorous aerobic activities. If unable to achieve these activities in one session, break it down in spells of 10-15 minutes or more.
- Add in the above duration, at least 2 days per week of muscle and bone strengthening exercises. Adults with poor mobility should add balance exercises to their plan.
Pregnancy and Post pregnancy
- Aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more if experiencing fatigue or discomforts of pregnancy
- Add muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week with modification to exercises as pregnancy progresses
- Start pelvic floor exercises, especially after childbirth. Make sure you follow proper technique to receive optimal health benefits.
Note: moderate intensity means you are sweating a little, breathing a little harder, can talk but not sing! Vigorous intensity implies you’re sweating and getting out of breath!
When choosing your exercise and physical activity, remember that every movement counts. It is okay to spread your activities throughout the day, change activities, start slow, listen to your body, and adapt as required. If you have an underlying health condition, talk with your doctor. If you are unsure about on how to stay active safely, talk to your physiotherapists. They have knowledge in human movement and are valuable in providing solutions.
The pillars to achieve a fulfilling and healthy life are integrating balance between physical activity and sedentary behaviour, best sleep and nutrition, mindful practice between spending solitary time to reflect and socialize.
- Canadian Guidelines https://csepguidelines.ca/
- Canadian Guidelines throughput Pregnancy https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines-for-pregnancy/
- United States Center of Disease Control and Prevention Recommendations https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/index.htm
- United States Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines https://health.gov/our-work/physical-activity/current-guidelines
- United Kingdom Chief Medical Officers Guidelines https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/832868/uk-chief-medical-officers-physical-activity-guidelines.pdf