Intense physical activity: are you getting enough?

Intense physical activity: are you getting enough?

Generally, people understand that engaging in physical activity is important to maintain optimal health, but how do you know if you are getting enough of the right intensity level of physical activity, for your age?

Very few Canadians are getting enough moderate to intense physical activity for their age. According to Statistics Canada, only 10 per cent of teenagers and 15 per cent of adults are reaching their ideal level of moderate to intense physical activity. This means that the vast majority of Canadians could benefit from more moderate to intense physical activity.

It’s important to understand what exactly moderate and intense physical activity levels are.

According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, moderate physical activity is generally classified as a level of physical activity where your heart rate is elevated and you can talk, but wouldn’t be able to sing your favorite song. On a scale of 1-10 of intensity, moderate activities should rank somewhere between 5 or 6. Moderate physical activity could include (but is not limited to) brisk walking, roller blading or riding a bicycle.

Vigorous physical activity is generally classified as a level of physical activity where your heart rate has gone up quite a bit and you can only say a few words before having to pause to breathe. On a scale of 1-10, vigorous activity should fall between 7 or 8. A few examples of vigorous activities could include (but are not limited to) swimming, running and playing sports such as hockey, basketball or tennis.

The Public Health Agency of Canada states that physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers, as well as improve mental health, physical strength and lifespan. Physical activity can also be a fun way to build and maintain healthy relationships with friends and family members.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has developed Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, which indicate what the optimal amount and intensity level of physical activity is relative to a person’s age:

  • Toddlers, ages 1-4: Should slowly work up to at least 180 minutes a day of energetic play that builds physical movement skills.
  • Children ages 5-17: Should be engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily.
  • Adults ages 18-64: Should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week.
  • Seniors should also do at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week, and seniors who have poor mobility should perform activities that enhance balance to prevent falls.

There isn’t any risk if you exceed these guidelines. In fact, if you do exceed them there are more health benefits.

For more information about the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, visit http://www.csep.ca.

David Cassidy
Alberta Health Services

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