From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

By Matt Mayer, MSc.

How fast can a day go when you have to fit in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity? Apparently too fast for most of us. Only 5 per cent of Canadians get the recommended 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity five or more days a week, according to research.

But there's good news: You don't have to set aside blocks of time for activity. Just add a little here and there during your daily routines. It's easier than you think. And 10 minutes is enough to get real cardiovascular benefits.

The key is active transport - using your own power, whether walking, rollerblading or cycling, to get where you need to go. For me, active transport delivers these spin-off benefits, besides the fitness boost:

  • Alertness: An active break gives me time away from my computer to organize thoughts without being distracted by email and the internet.
  • Time management: Fitting in a walk or ride to my destination makes me pay more attention to my schedule.
  • Savings: City driving is inefficient and wastes gas! Save cash with the "heel-toe express."

A rule I use is if the trip is less than 1.5 km, I walk. If the trip is more than 1.5 km, but less 3.0 km, I bike or rollerblade. Anything over 3 km I plan. Here are some ways to build active transportation into your life:

  • Going for groceries: When you need just a few things, try to aim for a convenience store or local grocer. The trip is relatively short but you are limited with how much you can carry so it keeps you on budget. An added bonus if you're picking up snacks: you balance your treat with some activity.
  • Heading to the gym: If you belong to a gym or club and drive to and from, try replacing one trip a week with a bike ride. Invest in a backpack and hit the road. Doing your aerobic training en route allows you time to work on flexibility and resistance training while you're there.
  • At the office: If you work in a building with multiple floors, reduce your elevator time or eliminate it all together. If you are more than 10 floors up, try getting off the elevator early. Build yourself up to 10 floors a day in the morning and afternoon.
  • In transit: If you need to drive, save the headache of searching for the closest parking spot and park at the furthest entrance from your destination. Get off the bus or subway a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.
  • When you need a break: Being in front of a screen at work or home can be mind numbing. Instead of browsing the channels or internet for a break, get up and walk around. This helps loosen stiff muscles and joints and increases blood flow - which can ease headache and give your eyes a rest.

Not everyone lives in a neighbourhood conducive to active transport, so you may need to find other activities to try. Share what works for you on our Heart and Stroke Foundation Facebook wall.

Once you begin to add a few minutes of activity to your day here and there, soon you'll find regular physical activity has become a habit.

Before starting any physical activity routine, please check with your healthcare provider first.

Matt Mayer is an exercise physiologist.

Posted: May 2012

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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