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How much physical activity do you need?

To maintain heart health, a little physical activity goes a long way.

Regular physical activity is a great way to keep your heart healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle. But if you're not active now, don't worry, you don’t have to suddenly embark on an Olympic-training program.

Our recommendations

Heart and Stroke recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. The activity doesn't have to be non-stop, such as an aerobics class. You can do 10 minutes or more at a time throughout the day to reach your daily total. For example, take a brisk 10-minute walk during lunch hour, play for 10 minutes with your kids after work, and then spend another 15 minutes walking the dog in the evening.

If you're short on time, remember that any physical activity is better than none. However, the more active you are, the greater the health benefits. The bonus: physical activity will give you more energy and help you cope better with your busy week.

Older adults should add muscle and bone-strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least two days per week to enhance balance and prevent falls.

Just as a variety of foods is important for healthy eating, a variety of activities is important for healthy living. Choose physical activities that require endurance, strength and flexibility.

  • Endurance activities are continuous activities such as walking, cycling and tennis. They’re especially beneficial for your heart, lungs and circulatory system.
  • Strength activities, such as carrying groceries (or toddlers), heavy yard work or weight training, strengthen muscles and bones and improve posture. Aim for at least two times a week.
  • Flexibility activities, such as stretches, yoga, housework or golfing keep your muscles relaxed and your joints mobile. Increased flexibility later in life will allow you to continue to tie your shoes, reach the top shelf in your kitchen and clip your toenails.
  • Balance activities you can do at home include standing on one foot or standing on your toes while holding onto the back of a chair. As you progress, steady yourself with one finger, then try it with no hands. When you are really steady, try the exercise with your eyes closed. Yoga and Tai Chi are also good for your balance along with any exercises that will strengthen your lower body.

Be sure to vary your activity from light, moderate and vigorous effort. Here are some suggestions:

Light Effort

  • light walking
  • volleyball
  • easy gardening or foraging
  • stretching

Moderate Effort

  • brisk walking
  • biking
  • raking leaves
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • water aerobics

Vigorous Effort

  • aerobics
  • basketball
  • fast swimming
  • fast dancing
  • hockey
  • jogging

You're never too old to strengthen your body! Studies have found that weight training can reverse muscle weakness even among people in their 90s.

NOTE: Before starting a physical activity program, speak to your healthcare provider first to discuss what is right for you.

Resources

ParticipACTION

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines

Manage Your Health

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

 

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