Physical activity is a vital part of health and well-being. Maintaining daily activity increases energy, strength and independence and can also help to reduce stress. People who are active and have generous amounts of body cell mass also recover more quickly from illness. Canada’s Food Guide recommends getting 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. This does not have to be done all at once but can be added up in 10 minute increments.The main types of exercise are resistance training (e.g. weight lifting), cardio or aerobic exercise (e.g. swimming or biking), and balance and flexibility exercise (e.g. yoga). Each type has different benefits. Get professional advice on the combination of exercises that is right for you. Resistance training uses weight to increase body cell mass by building muscle mass.
Weight lifting is the fastest way to build muscle but it is not the only way. Resistance exercises can also be done using stretch bands, exercise balls and the body’s own weight (e.g. push ups). Muscle burns more energy (calories) than fat, so increasing muscle mass increases the number of calories your body uses up in a day. Cardio or aerobic exercise, which includes activities like running, walking fast, biking, skating and swimming, benefits heart health and improves insulin sensitivity. This type of exercise promotes weight loss. To get the most benefits cardio needs to be done 3 to 4 times per week for at least 20 minutes.Balance and flexibility exercises, such as yoga or Tai Chi, help prevent injury and falls and should be included in your exercise program.
Moving your body - Getting started
- Build activity into daily living as much as possible. Even if you’re not feeling well, try to keep as active as you can. Muscle mass is quickly lost if it’s not used.
- Discuss any plans to start an exercise program with your doctor. And if exercise is new for you, get some advice from a trainer or physiotherapist.
- Start slowly and increase exercise level gradually to avoid injury.
- Take the time to warm up and stretch before and after exercising.
- It is not necessary to go to a gym for resistance exercise. Stretch bands and dumbbells can be used at home. Second-hand stores are good places to find dumbbells at low prices.
- Check with your local community centre for interesting programs or facilities. Some community centres offer reduced or free admission to people on disability pensions or income assistance.
- Find an exercise buddy to help keep you motivated.
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