From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Life's busy and many things can get in the way of being active – your kids, job, social demands, illness, excess weight or just being too tired. But finding the time to be active doesn't have to be stressful. Here's what you need to know to get – and stay – on track.

Just 30 minutes - most days

Being physically active is easier than you think. It doesn't have to take a lot of time. The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggest that just 30 minutes, most days of the week is all it takes to start, and everything counts – even walking, gardening and dancing. And you don't have to do it all at once – 10 minutes at a time is good, too.

“You don't have to exercise at a high level of intensity to derive benefit. It's important to realize you get big gain from less strain,” explains Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, Dr. Stephen Hotz, a clinical and health psychologist in Ottawa.

If you make active living part of your life by building it into your day, you won't feel like you have to set aside chunks of time. Walk or bike to work, play tag or dance with your kids, walk up stairs and escalators, or get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way. Remember, every little bit helps and doing some activity is always better than doing nothing at all.

Reasons to be active
Physical activity is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, improve mood, reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and cut your risk of heart disease and stroke. Other good reasons:

  • Smokers who become physically active are more likely to cut down or stop smoking.
  • People at their ideal weight are less likely to develop diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • Regular physical activity can significantly increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels and therefore reduce your risk of coronary artery disease.

Get started
If you're thinking about becoming physically active or have already started, you are well on your way to making an important change that could have a positive impact on your heart health now and in the years to come, says Dr. Hotz.

These five tips will help keep you focused:

  1. Identify your barriers to physical activity and overcome them. Is it long hours at work? Do you lack access to babysitters? Identifying your barriers may help you overcome them.
  2. Choose an activity you enjoy, or one you enjoyed as a child. Is it baseball? Dancing? Swimming?
  3. Walking is probably the most flexible, interesting and relaxing heart-healthy activity around – so think of how you can do more through your day. Check out our walking plan.
  4. Pay attention to the benefits you are experiencing daily or weekly – instead of looking to longer-term goals.
  5. If you have kids, plan a babysitting exchange with a friend or your partner so you can each take turns being physically active.

Learn more the types and amounts of activity you need to stay healthy or to improve your health by following Canada's Physical Activity Guides to Healthy Active Living

Heart and Stroke Foundation

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This article has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. The information is for reference and education only. This web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’‘s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician for specific information on personal health matters. The Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in, or omission of, information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this article.

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