Physical Activity Recommendations


How Much Physical Activity do People Need?

According to the guidelines developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011), children (5-11 years) and youth (12-17 years) require at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity per day while adults (18-64 years) and older adults (65 years and older) must get at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. Importantly, Canadians should try to exceed the minimum activity thresholds since the greater the variety, intensity and duration of the physical activity, the greater the health benefits.

These Guidelines are the result of more than four years of research analysis funded by several groups, are supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada and are consistent with international guidelines. They provide clear and concise instructions and tips for Canadians to achieve required levels of physical activity. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines are relevant to all apparently healthy Canadians, irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status. The Guidelines may be appropriate for those who are pregnant, have a disability or have a medical condition; however, these individuals should consult a health professional to understand the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them. Canadians of all ages are encouraged to participate in a variety of physical activities that are enjoyable and safe.

What are the Recommendations concerning Sedentary Behaviour?

The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth (2011) are the first systematic evidence-based guidelines of their kind in the world. These guidelines recommend Canadian children and youth limit sedentary behaviour during discretionary or ‘free’ time in order to reduce health risks. Specifically, for health benefits, children (aged 5-11 years) and youth (aged 12-17 years) should limit recreational screen time to no more than two hours per day. Children and youth should also limit sedentary transport, prolonged sitting and time spent indoors throughout the day.

Why do we Need Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines?

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines have been developed to encourage children and youth to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. However, even if children and youth meet these guidelines, there are still 23 hours remaining in the day for school, sleep, work and discretionary or ‘free’ time. Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines target this free time in particular and are meant to encourage incidental movement, active play and time outdoors, and discourage prolonged periods of sitting in a car, at a computer or resting on the sofa watching TV.

Please refer to Appendix C for the full text of the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth or consult the guidelines’ website