After a long and cold winter here in Toronto, it looks like the city is finally starting to come out of hibernation. Even though the weather is still wet and dreary, spring is around the corner! The thought of warmer weather, and longer sunny days seems to bring out a desire for us to get moving and exercising more.

You have probably heard many times the benefits of exercise. It can prevent or help treat chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, hypertension, and obesity. It can reduce stress and improve mood. It can improve cognition and memory. It can prevent falls. It can help encourage healthy aging. It can prevent premature death. However, it sometimes can be difficult to fit exercises into a busy and demanding life. You may not know what exercise is best or where to start. So let’s break it down into manageable pieces, so you can get exercise into your routine in a manageable, efficient and effective way!

First of all, how much should you be exercising? Canadian physical activity guidelines recommend the following for adults:

  • 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activity per week (this can range from a walk, sprint training, biking, or any other activity that can raise your heart rate)
  • 2x/week strength training of major muscles groups
  • More physical activity provides greater health benefits

What type of exercises is appropriate? Start with anything that you enjoy and something that feels possible to incorporate into your regular routine. It may include walking, swimming, hiking, biking, a dance or online exercise classes.

Some more ideas to help get you started

  • Get outside – as the weather warms up, take some time to explore the ravines in Toronto, or walk around your neighbourhood.
  • Track it – use wearable technology, such as a Fitbit, to count your steps or minutes of movement. It can help you keep track of your physical activity and many smart phones have build in steps counter that you can start using today.
  • Make it social – meet up with a friend and participate in something together or ask a colleague to do a power walk around the block at lunch.
  • Add it up – the 150 minutes recommended over the week can be accumulated in bouts of 10-minutes. So, don’t forget about the 10 minute brisk walk to the grocery store or the 20 minutes you run around your back yard with your kids.
  • Incorporate it into your daily routine – walk, or bike to work or school or get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way home.

If you already have a chronic condition or are experiencing pain with movement and need some extra guidance, making an appointment with a health care practitioner, such as a registered physiotherapist, would be a great place to start. Physical Therapists are trained to assess and treat a range of chronic conditions and can create an individualize exercise plan to help you move more and get exercising regularly.

The benefits of physical activity are vast, and the evidence shows us exercise is medicine. So, go and get moving!

*Remember, if you do suffer from another health condition, check with your doctor as to the best type of physical activity for you.

By Jennifer Harvey
Registered Physiotherapist

Reference: Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14;174(6):801-9. Review.