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Improving your health through physical activity

Physical activity plays an important role in maintaining health, wellbeing and quality of life. People who are physically active improve their health and increase their life expectancy.

Benefits of physical activity

Among other things, physical activity helps with the following:

  • Preventing chronic illnesses such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases
  • Improving attention, concentration and other functions of the brain
  • Maintaining good mental health
  • Improving sleep
  • Lowering stress
  • Reducing smoking

Thus, regular physical activity is an effective way of preventing many health risks at all ages.

Regular physical activity has the following benefits for adults and seniors:

  • Slows the development of atherosclerosis, a degenerative disease of the blood vessels
  • Reduces risk of complications after a heart attack
  • Delays the possible occurrence of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Helps reduce symptoms of arthritis
  • Strengthens bones
  • Helps maintain good muscle mass
  • Develops balance, which reduces the risk of falls and helps prevent fractures
  • Helps prolong autonomy

Guidelines for physical activity by age

Children aged 0 to 5 years

Young children should keep active as often as possible in order to stimulate proper growth and development.

  • Babies less than a year old should move many times a day, especially with the help of interactive floor games
  • Children aged 1 to 5 years old should be active at least 3 hours a day. They must develop their motor skills by engaging in games and activities of varying intensity. These games and activities can be indoors or outdoors and in various environments, such as in water or on ground

The older children get, the more they need to engage in games that require a certain amount of sustained effort. Running and jumping are examples of high intensity activities. Participation in such games and activities must increase progressively, reaching at least an hour a day by the age of 5.

Examples of recommended activities

Children younger than 2 ½ years old

  • Grabbing
  • Crawling and rolling on the floor
  • Picking from age-appropriate objects and toys scattered about
  • Repeating movements that precede walking, such as standing or holding their balance

It is important that the baby or child engage in these activities in a safe environment.

Children aged 2 ½ to 5 years old

  • Riding a tricycle or a bike
  • Playing on recreational equipment in a park
  • Walking or running on different surfaces with varying degrees of inclination
  • Climbing
  • Playing ball with hands and feet
  • Dancing 

Children aged 5 to 12 years old and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old

Children and adolescents should engage in at least 1 hour a day of moderate to high intensity physical activities. They must include activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least 3 times a week.

The more active children and adolescents are, the more they reap the benefits.

Examples of recommended activities

  • Push-ups with knees to the floor
  • Strength exercises using body weight or elastic bands
  • Skipping with a jump rope or a Whip ‘n Skip ankle rope
  • Running
  • Playing sports such as gymnastics, basketball , volleyball or tennis

Adults and seniors

Adults and seniors must do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate to intense physical activity weekly. Sessions of physical activity should be at least 10 minutes long. Twice a week minimum, they should include activities to strengthen muscles and bones, especially thighs and legs.

The more active people are, the more they reap the benefits.

Examples of recommended activities

  • Push-ups with knees to the floor
  • Strength exercises using body weight or elastic bands
  • Skipping with a jump rope or a Whip ‘n Skip ankle rope
  • Running
  • Playing sports such as gymnastics, basketball , volleyball or tennis
  • Fitness walking
  • Cycling
  • Aquafitness (water aerobics)
  • Daily activities, such as housework, cooking and running errands

Seniors with reduced mobility

Seniors with reduced mobility should do different physical activities in order to improve their balance and prevent falls. Examples include:

  • Aquafitness (water aerobics)
  • Walking
  • Muscle exercises that can even be done while seated
  • Stretching
  • Exercises with elastic bands or balls

Tips for being active

Becoming physically active is easier than you think. Start with low intensity activities and slowly increase your level of physical effort. The important thing is to incorporate movement into your daily life. To accomplish this, you could do the following, for example:

  • Register for classes or activities offered according to a specific schedule
  • Practice a sport
  • Incorporate physical activity into your leisure activities or commute, by walking or cycling for instance

Here are a few tips to help you be active:

  • Pick an activity that you enjoy and that matches your personality. Go with your preferences: group or individual activities, indoors or outdoors, fixed or varied schedule, etc.
  • Set an objective: to relax, correct your posture, lose weight, take up a personal challenge, etc.
  • Make sure you have the physical and financial capability to engage in the activity of your choice
  • Use your immediate surroundings as a place for exercising. For example, do your own household chores, such as cleaning, gardening or shoveling, which are great opportunities for moving
  • Walk whenever you have the opportunity:
    • Go to work by foot, or park your car a bit farther than necessary and walk to your place of employment. If you commute by bus, get off a few stops before your destination and walk the rest of the way
    • Use stairs instead of the elevator, or exit the elevator 1 or 2 floors before your destination

See also

Last update: April 8, 2022


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