Healthy Hub - July 2011

 Active Living

Not only are Canadians eating an  unhealthy diet, but we are living an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. A recent study conducted by Statistics Canada found that fewer than two out of every ten Canadians are exercising 2.5 hours per week. A more alarming study found only 7% of children are active one-hour a day. The lack of physical activity has contributed to an obesity epidemic in Canada, as well as increasing rates of other chronic diseases. In 2004 StatsCan estimated that over 23% of the population was obese, compared to 10% in 1970.



Ideal physical activity levels: Adults and children

Age Range Minimum level of activity
 5 - 11 years 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous level activity daily
 12 - 17 years  60 minutes of moderate to vigorous level activity daily
 18 - 64 years  150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity level activity weekly
 65 plus  150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity level activity weekly


The rise of specific diseases, such as hypertension, type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, coronary artery disease, osteoarthritis and colon cancer is directly related to weight gain. 

Our sedentry lifestyle is costing British Columbia $700 million per year on obesity-related costs and is expected to cost $1 billion by 2015.


Exercise in the news

A groundbreaking study recently published by Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, found exercise reversed the signs of aging in mice. Mice who exercised daily were robust and had fuller, shinier hair. This was then compared to mice who did not exercise who appeared to be balding and weak.

Dr. Tarnopolsky is studying and treating mitochondria dysfunction, an aging related illness that causes cells to slow down and produce less energy; contributing to aging, brain atrophy, wrinkles, hair loss and heart problems. Learn more about mitochondria from the BC Medical Journal.

In his study, Dr. Tarnoplsky injected a gene of dysfunctional mitochondria into the mice, meaning they were designed to age prematurely, then separated half of the mice to exercise on small treadmills three times a week. The other half remained sedentary in their cages.

The results were astonishing. The mice that exercised regularly remained youthful in appearance and their organs and brain improved in health. The mice that remained sedentary deteriorated physically and mentally.

Dr. Tarnopolsky said this is an excellent example of what happens to human bodies when exercise plays a regular role in their lifestyle, noting it is never too late to start exercising and see change. Previously, Dr. Tarnopolsky conducted a study on weight training in seniors, which proved to significantly slow down the body’s aging process.


The many benefits of exercise

The benefits of daily exercise are numerous. Not only does it make you look and feel good but it also provides a long list of physical, social and mental health gains.  Physical activity decreases your risk of chronic diseases, particularly coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. It may also lessen the severity of alcoholism, depression, stress, anxiety and loneliness. When people adopt a physically active lifestyle numerous benefits can  be expected such as reduced health care and absenteeism costs, increased productivity, healthier physical and social environments, and stronger participation in sports and other community events.


A move towards health

Health groups, including the World Health Organization, BC's Ministry of Health and the Canadian  Medical Association have developed initiatives to bring awareness to this alarming epidemic. In 2002 WHO began its annual Move for Health Day each May, challenging the globe to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on that day. Canada joined the challenge, and now every year communities from coast to coast participate in organized physical activities meant for all age groups.

The BC Recreation and Parks Association leads British Columbia in registered community events. To find one in your area, visit the BCRPA Move for Health website.

The BCMA coordinates an annual event called Walk with your Doc to help BC physicians highlight the benefits of daily exercise to their patients. In May 2011 over 100 doctors across the province led thousands of patients on a walk 1-2km in length around their communities.

Physical activity in children

HARD FACT: One in three children in Canada are overweight or obese. In the 1980s it was one in eight. Children are spending more and more of their time in front of the television, computer and video games instead of playing outside. Because of this lifestyle, more and more children are becoming afflicted with chronic diseases previously seen only in adults.  Health Canada recommends children aged 6-18 participate in physical activity for at least one hour a day to receive the benefits of exercise.

Visit the BCMA's BC Doctors facebook page for information and resources on childhood obesity.

How do you know if your child is obese? Parents can find out how healthy their child is by using a Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is an indirect indicator of body fat, based on height and weight measurements. Visit the Childhood Obesity Foundation for a link to a BMI calculator.


 Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for children and teens

Age range Minimum level of activity Moderate level activity Vigorous level activity
5 - 17 years 60 minutes of moderate to vigrous physical activity per day Bike riding, skating, playground activities Running, swimming, rollerblading



Physical activity in women

Too few adults are active on a regular basis - but the number is lower for women than it is for men. While 17per cent of men meet the guidelines of 30 minutes of physical activity per day, only 14 per cent of women meet the daily requirement for exercise. Heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke account for one-third of deaths in women around the world. Regular physical activity can maintain cardiovascular health, contributing to greater all round physical health. It can also be an important tool in preventing osteoporosis, a low bone density disease that becomes high-risk for post-menopausal women. Visit Health Canada’s Physical Activity website for healthy tips to keep active daily.

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults

Age Range Minimum level of activity Moderate level activity Vigorous level activity
18 - 64 years 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week Brisk walking, bike riding jogging, cross-country skiing




Physical activity in seniors

The number of seniors in Canada is beginning to double and will continue to grow in the next twenty years as the baby boomer generation enters retirement. This age group must recognize the importance of staying physically active right into old age, although the physical intensity may be reduced slightly. Even if regular exercise starts late in life, the benefits are still there. Pain and disability of many common diseases can be relieved through physical activity. Mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and depression can be managed through exercise as well. Group exercise can provide the opportunity for making new friends and maintaining ties in the community, and provide self-confidence and self-sufficiency. Visit Health Canada’s Physical Activity website for healthy tips to keep active daily.


Canadian physical Activity Guidelines for seniors

Age range Minimum level of activity Moderate level activity vigorous level activity
65 + 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week Brisk walking, bicycling cross-country skiing, swimming



How to keep moving:

There are many resources available to get British Columbians active. Look throught the list and visit the site that's right for you.

Walk BC - Whether you are a veteran walker or just getting started Walk BC has access to walking resources, an interactive map and information about pedometers. Walk BC is a provincial initiative led by the BCRPA and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of BC and the Yukon.

Hearts in Motion - Another walking club led by the Heart & Stroke Foundation throughout BC. For more information visit Heart and Stroke BC.

ActNow BC Seniors - Seniors have many outdoor options available for them from Boomer-friendly Bootcamps to the Move for Life information DVD. Visit Move For Life to learn more.

Workplace Moving - Promoting a healthy, active lifestyle in your workplace is easier with events and resources. Visit Walk BC - Workplace Walking or Get The World Moving for employee health tips and challanges.

Classroom Action - Start promoting physical activity in schools through Action Schools BC or So Go Active.



Canadian Medical Association. CMA Policy; Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Weights. PD06-03. 2006.
World Health Organization. World Health Day 2002, Physical Activity and older People. 2002.
World Health Organization. World Health Day 2002, Women and Physical Activity. 2002
Chant, Jessica.
2011 Move for Health Day; Move for Health Day: Physical Activity Fact Sheet. BC Recreation and Parks Association. 2011.
Chant, Jessica.
2011 Move for Health Day; Resources to Help Make Every Day Move for Helath Day. BC Recreaton and Parks Association. 2011.
Abma, Derek. "
Few Canadians meet recommended activity guidelines; StatsCan." Postmedia News. January 19, 2011.
Delaney, Rebecca. "Research Shows Exercise Reverses Aging in Mice." AOL News. March 14, 2011.

Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.


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