Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Friday, January 14, 2011

Canadians to be told to exercise less

Chris Reid, host of Cityscape on UMFM wanted to talk to me about the latest buzz in health and fitness.  This week one of the top stories was about Canadians being told to exercise less.

We're not really going to be told to exercise less; CSEP (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology), will, according to news releases this past week, be presenting their new recommendations for the minimum amount of exercise Canadians need to get a health benefit. Which isn't much.

Children 5 to 17 years old will be pared back from the current 90 minutes per day to 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Adults 18 to 64 can feel good about only needing 150 minutes over an entire week compared to the current  60 minutes daily of light activity, or 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity activity.

The over age 64 changes are about the same for the 18 to 64 crowd.

The past Handbook for Canada's Physical Activity Guide suggests we don't need much activity to start realizing health benefits, and that starting with a mere 10 minutes walking is all it takes.  Which is right of course.

These official guidelines are already quite conservative, and achievable.

The problem is very few people like exercise or see any point to it, so it doesn't really matter how much we minimize the time recommendations for exercise, few will buy into a product that has a poor reputation.

The genius is supposed to be that we align Canadian recommendations with that of the World Health Organizations physical activity recommendations.  This should work really well because countries like the US, Australia, and UK, have adopted these lower guidelines, and we can see how well it's working as those countries clearly have the healthiest and fittest populations.

Oh wait, I lost my mind for a moment.  Actually those countries each are experiencing the same obesity and reduced physical activity trends we are, if not worse.

So maybe the genius is about putting into reach physical activity recommendations that can be achieved.  We've set the bar too high.  People are so far away from being physically active for 60 minutes a day that doing so seems like you might as be asked to swim the Channel.

We're better off lowering the bar to only 150 minutes over seven days.

Let me clear something up here.  These minutes of "activity" that are being referred to here.. we're not talking about slugging out a high intensity workout in the gym or running 10k up hill with a packsack full of bricks.  We're talking about walking.  Just walking.

On one hand that shows how dismal we're doing.. Canadians are so physically inactive that from the time we wake to the time we go to bed, most of us don't move our bodies for more than 60 minutes total.


The good news is that being so out of shape it doesn't take much physical activity to produce measurable health benefits.

The recommendations also include flexibility exercises and strengthening exercises.  Click on the link to the guide for more info.

I don't think this new deal will work. There should be emphasis on how good it feels to gain the benefits of strength, flexibility, and endurance.  Up front and centre we should talk about building excitement towards the rewards of getting more fit and little by little by gradually adding more exercise.

How about something simple like;

"Start easy, add more, feel great".

One phrase imparts the idea of not needing much to get going, but implies there's more to be done, and that it's rewarding to do so.

Already CSEP is fielding questions about the bar being lowered (read this CTV Calgary article in which Silken Laumann, former Olympic rower doesn't show much love for the new standards), which is certainly how this will be perceived by many.

I usually like what CSEP does.  I'm not in favour of this latest move though.  It's a retreat.

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