Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines

Original Editor - Evan Thomas

Top Contributors - Evan Thomas  

Guideline Background[1]

The Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines were released in January 2011 by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and replace the previous guidelines. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has endorsed these new guidelines and ParticipACTION has played a key role in their promotion and dissemination. All the guidelines are available here, with the entire Guidelines Handbook available here.

The new guidelines were informed by a rigorous and transparent process, and recommendations are based on systematic reviews of the scientific evidence. A detailed report outlining the full guideline methodological development process and related materials can be accessed through the CSEP Web site here.

Guidelines for the Early Years (aged 0-4 years)[2]

Physical Activity Guidelines

For healthy growth and development:

  • Infants (aged less than 1 year) should be physically active several times daily – particularly through interactive floor-based play.
  • Toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) should accumulate at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day, including:
    • A variety of activities in different environments.
    • Activities that develop movement skills.
    • Progression toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play by 5 years of age.
  • More daily physical activity provides greater benefits.

Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines

  • For healthy growth and development, caregivers should minimize the time infants (aged less than 1 year), toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours. This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) for more than one hour at a time.
  • For those under 2 years, screen time (e.g., TV, computer, electronic games) is not recommended.
  • For children 2-4 years, screen time should be limited to under one hour per day; less is better.


Guidelines for Children (5-11 years) and Youth (12-17 years)[3][4]

Physical Activity Guidelines

  • For health benefits, children aged 5-11 years and youth aged 12-17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. This should include:
    • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week.
    • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week.
  • More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.

Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines

  • For health benefits, children (aged 5-11 years) and 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.


Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years)[5]

Physical Activity Guidelines

  • 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.


Guidelines for Older Adults (65 years and older)[6]

Physical Activity Guidelines

  • To achieve health benefits and improve functional abilities, adults aged 65 years and older 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.
  • Those with poor mobility should perform physical activities to enhance balance and prevent falls.
  • More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.


Guidelines for Adults with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)[7]

Physical Activity Guidelines

  • To achieve important fitness benefits, adults aged 18-64 years with Multiple Sclerosis who have mild to moderate disability need at least:
    • 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, 2 times per week, AND
    • Strength training exercises for major muscle groups, 2 times per week.
  • Meeting these guidelines may also reduce fatigue, improve mobility and enhance elements of health-related quality of life.

Aerobic Activity

  • Two times per week
    • Aerobic and strength training activities can be done on the same day
    • Rest your muscles for at least one day between strength training sessions
  • Gradually increase your activity so that you are doing at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity during each workout session.
    • These activities should be performed at a moderate intensity.
    • Moderate-intensity physical activity is usually a 5 or 6 on a scale of 10, and causes your heart rate to go up.
    • As a general rule if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing a song, during the activity.
  • Some options for activity include:
    • Upper Body Exercises: arm cycling
    • Lower Body Exercises: walking, leg cycling
    • Combined Upper and Lower body exercises: elliptical trainer

Strength Training Activity

  • Two times per week
    • Aerobic and strength training activities can be done on the same day
    • Rest your muscles for at least one day between strength training sessions
  • Repetitions are the number of times you lift and lower a weight.
    • Try to do 10-15 repetitions of each exercise.
    • This counts as 1 set.
    • Gradually work up to doing 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise.
  • Pick a resistance (free weights, cable pulleys, bands, etc.) heavy enough that you can barely, but safely, finish 10-15 repetitions of the last set.
    • Be sure to rest for 1-2 minutes between each set and exercise.
  • Some options for activity include:
    • Weight machines
    • Free weights
    • Cable pulleys

Other Activity

  • Other types of exercise that may bring benefits:
    • Elastic resistance bands
    • Aquatic exercise
    • Calisthenics

Guidelines for Adults with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)[8]

Physical Activity Guidelines

  • For important fitness benefits, adults with a spinal cord injury should engage in:
    • At least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity 2 times per week, AND
    • Strength training exercises 2 times per week, consisting of 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions of each exercise for each major muscle group.

Aerobic Activity

  • Two times per week
  • Gradually increase your activity so that you are doing at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity during each workout session.
  • These activities should be performed at a moderate to vigorous intensity.
    • Moderate intensity: activities that feel somewhat hard, but you can keep doing them for a while without getting tired.
    • Vigorous intensity: activities that make you feel like you are working really hard, almost at your maximum, and you cannot do these activities for very long without getting tired.
  • There are many ways to reach this goal, including:
    • Upper Body Exercises: wheeling, arm cycling, sports
    • Lower Body Exercises: Body weight supported treadmill walking, cycling
    • Whole Body Exercise: recumbent stepper, water exercise

Strength Training Activity

  • Two times per week
  • Repetitions are the number of times you lift and lower a weight.
    • Try to do 8-10 repetitions of each exercise.
    • This counts as 1 set.
    • Gradually work up to doing 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions of each exercise.
  • Pick a resistance (free weights, cable pulleys, bands, etc.) heavy enough that you can barely, but safely, finish 8-10 repetitions of the last set.
    • Be sure to rest for 1-2 minutes between each set and exercise.
  • There are many ways to reach this goal, including:
    • Free weights
    • Elastic resistance bands
    • Cable pulleys
    • Weight machines
    • Functional electrical stimulation

Guidelines for Adults with Parkinson's Disease (PD)[9]

  • People with Parkinson’s who exercise fare better over time than those who are not active.
  • Physical activity should be initiated early in the diagnosis and be a life-long commitment.
  • Engaging in aerobic activity, along with other activities for strength, flexibility and balance, improves Parkinson’s symptoms and sense of well-being.

Aerobic Activities...

  • Make the body’s large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time.
  • Improve physical fitness, including strength and endurance.
  • Have a positive effect on slowness and stiffness, as well as mood, and quality of life.
  • Examples: brisk walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, water aerobics, skating, hiking, treadmill or elliptical, Wii

Flexibility Activities...

  • Improve mobility, increase range of motion, and reduce stiffness.
  • Improve range of motion which affects posture and walking ability making everyday activities easier.
  • Examples: Tai Chi, stretching

Strengthening Activities...

  • Improve muscle strength, walking speed, posture and overall physical fitness.
  • Will help everyday activities, such as getting up from a chair, easier to manage.
  • Examples: yard work or gardening, weights/resistance (free weights, elastic bands, body weight)

Balance Activities...

  • Improve posture and stability.
  • Better balance reduces the fear of falling and helps in performing daily tasks.
  • Examples: Yoga, hiking, Wii

Additional Resources

Recent Related Research (from Pubmed)

References

  1. Tremblay MS, Warburton DER, Janssen I, Paterson DH, Latimer AE, Rhodes RE, Kho ME, Hicks A, LeBlanc AG, Zehr L, Murumets K, Duggan M. New Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2011; 36(1): 36-46.
  2. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for the Early Years (0–4 Years). Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011).
  3. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children 5-11 Years. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011).
  4. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Youth 12-17 Years. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011).
  5. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults 18-64 Years. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011).
  6. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults 65 Years and Older. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011).
  7. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with Multiple Sclerosis. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011).
  8. Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with Spinal Cord Injury. SCI Action Canada (2011).
  9. Physical Activity and Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson Society Canada (2012).