Got a minute?

That's all it takes to improve your health and well-being

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Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, September / October 2013

Are you physically active enough?

If you're like most Canadian adults, chances are the answer is no.

Regular physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that active men and women have lower rates of all sorts of health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and colon and breast cancer. They are also less likely to suffer a hip fracture.

Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence that exercise can reduce your risk for developing these and other conditions, Statistics Canada estimates that only 15 per cent of adults are getting the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity they need each week to maintain good health.

When asked, most people say they simply can't find the time to be active. But the fact is being active does not require massive time commitments. In fact, emerging research suggests short sessions of activity - 10 minutes or less - can provide significant health benefits. Even taking a series of one-minute exercise breaks during your workday - provided they occur frequently - can make a difference.

The fact is most people could ramp up their activity quotient simply by altering their workday routines. With that in mind, we have developed a six-point action plan to help get you started:

Work physical activity into your day

Schedule frequent computerized reminders throughout the day to encourage you to get out of your chair and take a short walk around the office. Take your meetings on the road. Mobile meetings (walking and talking) with colleagues are becoming increasingly popular.

Snack on physical activity and feast on the benefits

Going for coffee? Take a walk with a co-worker to your favourite coffee spot and walk back. This also gets you out of the office for some fresh air. Use your lunchtime wisely. Take a 10 minute walk each day before you sit down to eat, and you are well on your way to 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Take the stairs

Quite often we have the choice between taking the elevator or the stairs. When you do, take the stairs. Too many floors to climb? Take the stairs for part of the journey and then the elevator for the remainder. Over time, you may find yourself taking the stairs for the entire trip.

Try active transportation

Why not try active transportation? Can you walk, cycle, take public transportation, or a combination to and from work? If this is not a practical approach for you, park farther from the office and walk to work. Parking farther away from your destination and walking is a healthy way to add physical activity into your day. Try to incorporate this strategy wherever you go. This will also allow people who require closer parking spots, because of mobility issues, to find parking without waiting.

Keep it going

Set daily physical activity goals. This strategy can keep you motivated to remain physically active throughout the day. Create some fun competition in your office. Get a group of coworkers together and try the Walk for Wellness Challenge! Remember to be more active today than you were yesterday!

Track your activity

Walking is a great way to become active. In fact, research suggests that taking 10,000 steps a day can significantly improve your health. You can track your activity by wearing a pedometer. Not only will it help you count steps, it will also let you know how far you have travelled down the road to better health.

David Kent is an MSc student in the Health, Leisure & Human Performance Research Institute in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management at the University of Manitoba. D. Scott Kehler, a PhD student at the Health, Leisure & Human Performance Research Institute; Dr. Todd A. Duhamel, an assistant professor at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital; and Sarah Prowse, a physical activity promotion co-ordinator with the Winnipeg Health Region, contributed to this column.

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