Physical Activity Action Plan

A smiling, older couple bikes on a wooded trail.

How much physical activity do you need?

As you will see below, expert advice on how much and how often we need to be active varies a bit.

The experts who reviewed the research on physical activity and cancer risk advise that adults should begin with 30 minutes of moderate activity daily, such as biking, walking quickly, or heavy yard work. Over time, you should build up to 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes (or more) of vigorous activity every day.

Health Canada created Canada's Physical Activity Guide for Healthy Active Living based on a review of the research linking physical activity to lower overall disease risk. Canada's Physical Activity Guide for adults recommends that you begin with 60 minutes of light physical activity daily, such as easy gardening or stretching. As your fitness improves, build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Work towards 30 minutes of vigorous activity at least 5 times a week.

You don't need to lose weight. Should you still be physically active?

Yes. Current research reports that regular physical activity, at the level suggested above, may reduce breast cancer risk even if you do not lose weight.

You've never been very active. Is it too late to start?

It's never too late to start being more physically active. Research shows that women who start exercising after menopause can still lower their breast cancer risk. Find an activity that you enjoy and can do without aggravating any health issues you may have-you don't have to join a gym to be more active. Consult your doctor before starting any new physical activities-he or she may also be able to suggest activities that would be suitable for you.

Looking for ways to be more active?

  • Find a friend or family member to walk, ride, skate, dance, or play with you. Rather than driving your kids to and from physical activity sessions, incorporate exercise into your family's daily life, and do it with them.
  • Every step counts: get a pedometer (a small gadget that counts your footsteps). Experts recommend that you work your way up to taking 10,000 steps each day. When you have reached that goal, try to make 2,000 to 4,000 of these steps brisk ones.
  • If you have a smart phone, explore apps that can help you stay active. There are apps to track exercise, eating, and the steps you take every day. Most newspapers, such as the New York Times, have reviewed fitness applications.
  • Check your local newspapers and your municipality's website for classes offered by school boards, recreation centres, and private companies.
  • Talk to coworkers about opportunities for physical activity at or near your workplace.
  • For ideas on how to get moving during your work day, see the Centre for Active Living website.
  • Check your phone directory for parks, fitness and sports clubs.
  • Winter activities, such as skiing, skating, hockey, tobogganing, and building snowmen let you enjoy the outdoors while getting and staying fit. If you don't want to brave the cold, check your local indoor mall to see if mall walking is permitted before, during, or after store hours.
  • To find activities in your area, visit the Active 2010 website, operated by the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion. Look for "What's out there for you?"
  • Buy an exercise video. See reviews at www.consumersearch.com.

The bottom line

Try to work your way up to 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least 5 times a week. For your copy of Canada's Physical Activity Guide, go to the Health Canada website.