Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Sedentary Behavior Guidelines

Last week I wrote about the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and said that maybe we would look a the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines this week. 

Well guess what?

I’m going to come through for you!

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), in cooperation with ParticipACTION and other stakeholders, and with support from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) put the guidelines together. They are actually quite similar to the American Guidelines and there are guidelines for each age group available from their website.

Guidelines for Adults 18-64 Years

Here are the guidelines for adults:

  • To achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
  • It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least 2 days per week.
  • More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.

Pretty simple and pretty similar to the American Guidelines right?

But wait, there’s more

The cool thing though, is that they also developed Sedentary Behavior Guidelines.

On the surface it may sound like sedentary behavior is the opposite of physical activity but sadly it’s not that simple. Here are some definitions to help explain the difference:

  • Physical activity: Movement that increases heart rate and breathing (e.g. running, biking, dancing, brisk walking)
  • Sedentary activity: Behaviors characterized by little physical movement and low energy expenditure (e.g. sitting, watching television, playing video games).

So my day today has consisted of the following:

  • lying in bed – sedentary
  • making coffee and breakfast and doing dishes – neither sedentary nor physically active
  • working on my lap top – sedentary
  • walking to the gym – neither sedentary nor physically active
  • working out – physically active
  • walking back to my apartment, taking a shower, packing for my trip – neither sedentary nor physically active
  • you get the idea?

Research has shown that decreased sedentary behavior is linked with improved health, regardless of physical activity level. The Canadian Guidelines were only created for children and youth but I think they apply to adults as well. Here’s what they say:

Canadian Sedentary Behavior Guidelines for Youth 12 – 17 Years

For health benefits, youth (aged 12-17 years) should minimize the time they spend being sedentary each day. This may be achieved by:

  • Limiting recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day; lower levels are associated with additional health benefits.
  • Limiting sedentary (motorized) transport, extended sitting and time spent indoors throughout the day

Following these guidelines can improve body composition, cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal fitness, academic achievement, self-esteem and social behaviors.
For those with screen time levels in excess of 2 hours per day it is appropriate to start to progressively reduce screen time as a stepping-stone to meeting the guidelines.

These guidelines are created for youth but I think they apply just as well to adults – what do you think?
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