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Basic principles of physical activity

Physical activity can be a lifesaver – literally. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that you accumulate  at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking or bike riding. Vigorous intensity may mean jogging or cross-country skiing. To derive the most benefit, spread your activity out over several days of the week. By doing so, you can dramatically lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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Regular activity also helps prevent and control risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, certain types of cancer and obesity. Adding more activity to your daily life may also reduce stress levels, increase energy, improve sleep and digestion. Because physical activity makes you feel better about yourself, you're more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices and avoid unhealthy ones such as smoking, overeating or drinking too much alcohol.

Benefits may begin within the first week of regular activity. For example, your blood pressure may start to come down, and you could start to feel more energetic and relaxed. After three months, you may experience better health, improved posture and balance, stronger muscles and bones, more confidence and a more positive outlook on life.

Before starting a physical activity program, it's best to speak to your healthcare provider first to discuss what is right for you.

If you have a heart problem, you may want to check out our HeartWalk Workout. This is a special exercise program developed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation to help people with heart disease problems get regular healthy exercise.

Read more about:

Adult needs
Children’s needs
HeartWalk Workout
Seniors’ needs
Types and amounts

Read more about the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines

Last reviewed: March 2011