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?

Physical Activity Guidelines

I made dark chocolate – chocolate chip brownies last night and much to Husbandpants’ surprise, I have not eaten them all yet.

But if I’m going to be able to enjoy all of the chocolate chip pie and peach pie and apple pie and banana cream pie and sweet potato pie and coconut cream pie and chocolate pecan pie and buttermilk pie and lemon ice box pie that the South has to offer, I am really going to have to amp up my exercise routine.

That said, I wanted to share some things to consider when it comes to physical activity according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

I know. They sound a little out of date. And there is definitely science supporting some small changes in the Guidelines.

But this gives us a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Expect updates in … um … some number of years from now.

Canada put out new guidelines earlier this year. They probably recommend a lot of dog-sledding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. But maybe we’ll see how they compare next week.

So here is the answers to why, who, what , where, when, and how?


Physical activity can make you feel stronger, more energetic, and more alive.

Also it’s fun if you find the right activity.

And it is oh so good for your health.


Anyone who is already physically active or has been given the go-ahead by a doctor.


This part is kinda up to you. You need to find activities that you like to do and that fit into your life.

Do both aerobic activities and strengthening activities because each offers important health benefits.

Choose aerobic activities that work for you. These make your heart beat faster and can make your heart, lungs, and blood vessels stronger. Try:

  • biking
  • canoeing
  • team sports
  • walking
  • dancing
  • martial arts
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • the list goes on

Also, do strengthening activities which make your muscles do more work than usual. Include all the major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session. Try:

  • lifting weights
  • yoga
  • resistance bands
  • push ups, sit ups, pull ups
  • heavy gardening


  • Join a gym.
  • Go to the park or beach or hit the streets in your neighborhood.
  • Use your garage or spare room or work out in from of the TV.
  • Check out a local yoga, pilates, or dance studio.


Work with an exercise professional to make sure you are getting the maximum benefit out of your activity. Start out with light or moderate intensity activities and then as you get better, you can work up to vigorous activities that take more effort.


It is up to you, but it is better to spread your activity throughout the week and to be active at least 3 days a week. Do at least 10 minutes of physical activity at a time.

When you are just getting started, start with a few minutes and do a little more each time. Once you feel comfortable, do it more often.

  • If you choose activities at a moderate level, aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.
  • If you choose vigorous activities, aim for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.

Slowly build up the amount of time you do physical activities.

The more time you spend, the more health benefits you gain.

Once you’ve met the goals above, aim to double them.

  • Try to do strengthening activities at least 2 days per week.

And remember! Any physical activity is better than none.

How does the amount of physical activity you do compare to the guidelines?
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