“Move more, sit less, sleep well”—this is the mantra of the newly released Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Adults. The advice is particularly important during the pandemic, when staying healthy has become even more of a priority.
The first of its kind, the guidelines lay out what a healthy 24 hours should look like for the average Canadian adult aged 18-64, as well as recommendations for those 65 or older.
They recognize, for the first time, that any amount of movement is beneficial. People don’t need to do a specific 30-minute workout every day to be healthy; it’s about making your whole day matter.
Dr. Robert Ross, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, was a key member in developing the guidelines.
“The guidelines are about integration of movement behaviors throughout a 24-hour day…[a]ppreciate that some exercise, some movement behavior is better than none, and moving towards the targets, whether they are achieved or not, is beneficial,” Ross said in an interview with The Journal.
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Especially when a majority of the population is now working from home, it can be difficult to become physically active—since COVID-19 prevention guidelines were implemented in March, many Canadian adults have felt a loss of control, particularly those more at risk of contracting the virus.
This is why the guidelines are so beneficial, Ross said.
“Here are opportunities for individual Canadians to say, ‘I have numerous ways that I can move more throughout the day […] I can reduce the number of hours that I view a screen by simply taking a walk two or three times a day.
“And if I’m moving more, chances are I’m going to sleep better’[…] it’s a very positive news story.”
Getting a gym membership is great if that’s what you like to do, Ross said. But going for a brisk walk outside, walking around the shopping mall, or parking your car a little further away than normal are all example of ways you can reach the recommended 150 minutes per week without buying any equipment or setting aside specific time.
Even if you don’t reach those minutes in a week, that’s okay. The guidelines suggest a healthy lifestyle is all about increasing and integrating movement whenever and wherever, regardless of the intensity or amount.
Dr. Jennifer Tomasone, an assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, also helped develop the guidelines.
“Some of the long-term benefits of engaging in optimal levels of movement behavior include things like lower risk of death, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 3 diabetes, several cancers, anxiety, depression, dementia […] these are all important in the long term,” Tomasone told The Journal.
“[W]e also know that in the short term, a good night’s sleep or getting some movement can elevate your mood and give you a more positive outlook on life, and these are all things we want to experience every day, but particularly
during the pandemic.”
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As we come upon the winter months, staying active might prove to be more difficult. However, it’s not impossible.
“[Taking] the more mundane tasks of everyday living and trying to incorporate some more movement wherever possible […] dance around while washing the dishes, or while brushing your teeth. Or during a class if you’re a student, or during a meeting if you’re a staff member or a faculty member, can you stand?”
“We don’t have to think about going outside in the cold Kingston weather, or wherever people are located. It can be just simple swaps that we can do, even in our own home.”
A healthy lifestyle is about making your whole day count, according to Ross and Tomasone. The guidelines are not meant to be thresholds—they just want you to move more than you are now, to sit less than you are now, and to sleep better than you are now.
“We want to always think about replacing our sedentary behavior with additional physical activity, and then wherever possible, trading light physical activity with more moderate to vigorous physical activity,” Tomasone said.
“At the same time, we have to preserve sufficient sleep…when we can make those trade-offs throughout our day more often, that provides us with greater health benefits.”
For more information on these guidelines and their impacts, people can visit participACTION.com or csepguidelines.ca. There is also a participACTION app that features fun challenges and suggestions for incorporating movement into daily life.
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