Physical activity guidelines

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teen girl biking

​​The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines​, based on years of research, describe how much activity is recommended to stay healthy. These are targets that you can work towards gradually.

The physical activity recommended in the guidelines is different from uptime. It is divided into moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise, which are both intended to increase your heart rate and breathing.

  • Moderate intensity exercise includes skating, bike riding, brisk walking or jogging.
  • Vigorous intensity exercise includes running, rollerblading, swimming and cross-country skiing.

You should try to meet the recommended physical activity levels in addition to the daily light activities that make up your uptime. Here are the recommended guidelines to work towards.

Age groupRecommended activity level
Adolescents (12-17 years)
  • 60 minutes or more of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity each day
  • Include exercsies to strengthen muscles and bones three times a week
Young adults (18 years and up)​
  • At least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more
  • Include exercsies to strengthen muscles and bones twice a week

For people with persistent pain, these standard exercise guidelines might seem overwhelming. Try starting with more gentle activities such as walking, stretching and gentle swimming. If you haven’t been active in a while, talk to your healthcare team about how to start an activity program.

How to become (and stay!) physically active

  • Start slow, build up gradually and have fun!
  • Set SMART goals and work towards them.​
  • To help keep you motivated, recruit a friend or family member to exercise with you. If you prefer to exercise on your own, line up a playlist of your favourite music or some podcasts.
  • Use an exercise-tracking app – seeing the results of your effort can help you stay motivated.
  • Find a time of day to exercise that works best for you; creating a routine for your physical activity can help you to stick to your plan.
  • Search your local recreation centre for interesting classes in your area to drop in and try.
  • Ask your healthcare team for advice or support.
  • Choose at least three activities that you enjoy (even if you cannot do them all at full intensity right now). For instance, you might consider walking, swimming, roller-blading, yoga, dancing, basketball or soccer. Choosing a range of activities will allow you to exercise different parts of your body when one area is feeling tired.
girl playing tennis

Types of exercises

Different exercises provide specific benefits for your health and work your body in different ways. By choosing different types of exercise, you can build your flexibility, strength and cardio capacity, rather than focus all your energy on one aspect of your physical health.

Incorporating different types of activities into your exercise regime also gives you more choice on days that you might be feeling less energetic. Talk to your physiotherapist or another exercise expert before starting a new exercise regime.

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Last updated: May 2nd 2016