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Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour

Information for Health Professionals

Physical Activity

Leading an active lifestyle is important for preventing chronic diseases. Regular physical activity can:

  • Prevent some types of  cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve heart and lung functioning
  • Improve energy levels
  • Help reach and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve mental health and wellbeing

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults aged 18-64 years recommends:

  • accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more
  • including muscle and bone strengthening activities at least twice a week
  • adding more physical activity to achieve greater health benefits

Walking is a recommended physical activity as it is free, easy and has a relatively low risk of injury. Walking can be done throughout the life course, and is a popular activity as we get older.

For more information on the health benefits of walking see the following infographic

Sedentary Behaviour

Sedentary behaviours include activities in a seated or reclined posture that require little energy expenditure while being awake. Examples include sitting in a car, sitting at a desk at work, sitting to watch TV or use a computer (screen time). Sedentary behaviour is distinct from being physically inactive as it is possible to meet physical activity guidelines and still spend a large amount of time sitting. Currently no national guidelines exist for adult sedentary behaviour.

Excessive sedentary behaviour can have negative effects on health. A national study shows that Canadians spend, on average, up to 10 hours per day sitting. Evidence specific to Alberta shows that Albertans spend on average 9 hours on week days and 8.25 hours on weekends being sedentary. 1/3 of Albertans are sedentary for greater than 10 hours per day.

Finding ways to break up sitting time is important for maintaining good health and wellbeing. As a health professional it is important that we promote the message of moving more and sitting less:

  • Challenge the norm of sitting; encourage your patient to find ways to break up the amount of sitting they do each day.
  • Modify our environments (and our thinking) so they are less supportive of excessive sitting.
  • Discuss sedentary behaviour through health, behavioural, and cultural lenses