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Health Benefits of Physical Activity

Being physically active can help prevent chronic diseases so you live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. Here are some of the ways regular physical activity improves your health:

  • Helps with weight management
  • Improve balance and coordination, lower risk of falls
  • Stronger bones and joints, can help decrease joint pain and stiffness
  • Increases good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs)
  • Decreases bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs)
  • Improves blood glucose balance and your body’s ability to use insulin
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Improves heart function and blood flow
  • Improves psychological well-being (less stress, anxiety and depression)

Learn more about the health benefits of physical activity:

Recommended Amount of Physical Activity

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. Also try to include several hours of light physical activity, including standing, each week. If you become active after having been inactive for a while, you will see the biggest health improvements. Even increasing your level of activity a little bit will improve your health. See Getting Started: Adding More Physical Activity to Your Life to see how you can improve your health.

How much physical activity is right for you?

One way to know how much activity is right for you is to follow the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults.

Physical Activity and Chronic Disease

Physical activity can help prevent, reduce or reverse the effects of many chronic diseases. Chronic diseases include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis.

Here are examples of how physical activity can improve your health:

  • Aerobic fitness helps the heart, lungs and blood vessels function better. This can help reduce or reverse cardiovascular disease and lead to a longer life
  • Aerobic and resistance exercises can help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Combine that with even a small amount of weight loss from diet, diabetes can be reduced in high-risk people by 40 to 60% over a 3 to 4 year period. If you already have diabetes, activity is an effective way to help manage your condition
  • Regular physical activity helps reduce the chances of getting colon and breast cancers. Active people are less likely to get cancer compared to people who are inactive. They are 30 to 40% less likely to get colon cancer and 20 to 30% less likely to get breast cancer. If you already have cancer, regular activity can help increase your overall health, quality of life and how long you’re likely to live

Healthy Muscles and Bones

Regular weight-bearing activity keeps your bones healthy and improves bone density. By participating in regular activity, you can increase your flexibility, improve balance and develop muscle strength. This can reduce the risk and number of falls and fractures later in life.

Terms and Concepts

There are many terms and concepts to learn when it comes to physical activity. Let's break these down so you have a good understanding of the basics. This will help you choose the activity that is right for you. Learn more about Physical Activity Definitions.

Last Updated: June 2021