The many benefits of physical activity
Man and woman running together

This article is part of a series in collaboration with ParticipACTION. Discover how "Everything gets better when you get active!"

The benefits of physical activity go much further than skin deep. A regular practice of daily movement can have a positive effect on every aspect of our well-being, improving everything from heart health to mood to your ability to cope with the stress of everyday life. Finding a way to get moving consistently can even help you forge deeper connections with friends, family and within your community.

Need inspiration to get moving? Just consider all that you’re getting when you get active!

How daily movement affects your physical health

The physical benefits of daily activity are plentiful. In fact, it’s less a list and more like an endless ticker of good-for-you perks that runs the length of your body and contributes to the proper functioning of many systems within it.

Regular physical activity can:

• Reduce your risk of heart disease by reducing the build-up of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your arteries and increasing good cholesterol (HDL)

• Lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension, two risk factors for heart disease and stroke

• Reduce your risk of illness such as type 2 diabetes and even some cancers like colorectal and breast cancer

• Strengthen muscles and bones

• Boost energy levels

• Help you maintain a healthy body weight

• Improve the quality of your sleep

Exercise is good mood food

There’s a big reason why so many of us take a walk to clear our heads – getting the blood flowing in our bodies can work wonders for mental and psychological health. Exercise promotes mental clarity and can be a true partner in maintaining mental health. Physical activity can:

• Elevate your mood and offer a cheap and cheerful pick-me-up

• Positively impact your self-confidence, which leads to better choices

• Reduce your reactivity to stressors and improve your ability to cope with stress overall

• Help prevent and, in some cases, even alleviate the symptoms of both depression and anxiety

Getting a good sweat on can foster meaningful social connections, too

There’s no “I” in team, right? Well, that’s because engaging in group exercise (think soccer or softball) or in shared physical activity with a partner or workout buddy (think tennis, cycling, jogging, walking, and so on) can help dissolve the boundaries between you and others and forge deeper social connections, which serves overall wellbeing.

Joining a team or partnering up with a workout buddy can:

• Offer a source of much needed motivation and accountability

• Add the all-important ‘fun factor’ to exercise. If you’re not enjoying it or looking forward to it, you probably won’t do it that often

• Team sports challenge you to develop and hone handy life skills too, such as problem solving, cooperation and leadership

Exercise can provide the opportunity to meet new people, reassert connections with colleagues and friends, and deepen bonds with your loved ones. Tossing a Frisbee in the park with your partner or your child is a great way to bond.

Moving your body every day fights age-related decline

Aging is a natural part of life that comes with new challenges and often greater opportunities for exploring new habits and activities. Daily physical activity can not only enhance your daily life, but it can also help ensure you age with greater ease, comfort, energy and safety. Staying active in middle life and beyond can:

• Improve your balance and agility thereby reducing the risk of injury related to falls

• Keep you sharp and help prevent cognitive decline and associated risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

• Help you maintain your independence and sense of purpose

• Keep you out and about in your community and reduce the chances of falling prey to isolation or feelings of loneliness

How much physical activity is enough to reap all the above rewards? Less than you think

Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines suggest that adults between 18-64 are well set up to reap the benefits of physical activity if they aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, which works out to about 20 minutes of activity per day.

What counts as moderate to vigorous?

The answer has a lot to do with your fitness level, but your breathing and heart rate are good indications of your effort. If your breath is quickened and you’re starting to sweat, you’re in the moderate to vigorous zone. Some good ways to work up a sweat include brisk walking, swimming and playing tennis. Yard work and domestic chores can count too.

Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines also encourage people to:

• Perform muscle strengthening activities like resistance or weight training or even vigorous yard work at least twice a week

• Reduce sedentary time to under eight hours a day by performing light physical activities like tidying up, stretching, gentle walking or by breaking up sitting with simple standing each day

• Limit recreational screen use to 3 hours a day


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