Don’t let the idea of physical activity put you off. While working out in a gym or playing a sport is great, physical activity is about so much more than this. Think of it as how you can use your muscles more in your everyday life. If you drive to work, sit at a desk all day, and use all the conveniences of modern life, you probably need to move more.
Previous generations were much more active in their daily life than most of us are. They didn’t go to a gym to get their blood pumping – jobs in factories or farm work required a lot of physical activity. They walked or rode bicycles to get around. Housework, without today’s labour-saving appliances, was a workout in itself.
When you think of physical activity in these terms, it’s easier to get active – it doesn’t have to be expensive or inconvenient. Being active can make you feel good too.
Physical activity and cancer
Research shows that regular physical activity over your lifetime protects against colon cancer.
Physical activity is also one of the best ways to get to and maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for cancer of the breast, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, pancreas and uterus.
At least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day can make a difference. In addition to protecting against colon cancer, research so far tells us that getting active may also be able to reduce risk of breast, lung and uterine cancers.
Check with your doctor
Check with your doctor if you haven’t been active for a long time or if you have a medical condition that might get in the way of being active.
Physical activity is almost always healthy. Your doctor may be able to suggest activities that suit your age, fitness level and general health – and let you know if there are any activities you should avoid.
Tips to get active
- Follow physical activity guidelines.
- Don’t worry about starting small – every little bit helps. Gradually increase your activity level over time.
- Avoid the elevator and take the stairs wherever you are. Every step counts. Walking 10,000 steps a day is a good starting point. For maximum health benefits, 2,000 to 4,000 steps need to be at a brisk pace. Wearing a pedometer can help you keep track.
- Start up a lunchtime activity club at work or school. You may be surprised at the response. Sometimes people are just waiting for someone else to organize something.
- Walk, roller-blade, scooter or cycle to work or school. If you can’t do it all the way, try being active for part of the journey.
- Stretch throughout the day. This can relieve tension when you have to sit for long periods of time.
- Walk to a co-worker’s office to discuss an issue instead of phoning or sending an email.
- Swap 30 minutes of television for a 30-minute walk each day.
- Make play time with your kids physical for everyone. Don’t watch them play – play tag, soccer or ball hockey with them.
- Turn physical activity into a social event. Go to the park with a group of friends and a Frisbee. Invite the neighbours and their kids over to play ball hockey or basketball.
- Set a goal and make a plan – pick a time, pick a place and get active. Book a date with a friend to keep on track. Challenging yourself and your activity partner will help you both meet your goals.
Public Health Agency of Canada - Physical Activity
For children (5–11) and youth (12–17)
Provides guidance on how to help kids and youth enjoy their way to a healthier lifestyle.
For adults (18 – 64 )
Provides guidance on how active adults should be and types of activity.
For older adults (65 and over)
Provides guidance on how active older adults should be and types of activity.
It's Your Health – Obesity
Presents information on obesity, chronic disease and ways to reduce your risk.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Promotion
Physical Activity and Health
Includes fact sheets and information for many age groups on how regular physical activity improves your health.