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Physical Activity and Disease Prevention

Regular physical activity can improve your health. It can also help prevent chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There are 3 levels of disease prevention:

  1. Primary Prevention - trying to prevent yourself from getting a disease
  2. Secondary Prevention - trying to detect a disease early and prevent it from getting worse
  3. Tertiary Prevention - trying to improve your quality of life and reduce the symptoms of a disease you already have

Primary Prevention

At the primary prevention level, we try to avoid getting a disease by leading a healthy lifestyle. This can include physical activity, good nutrition, getting enough rest, reducing stress, having regular medical check-ups and trying to stay away from environmental risks and harmful substances.

Secondary Prevention

At the secondary prevention level, we try to detect a disease early, identify risks, and try to prevent the disease and its symptoms from progressing. Some of the assessments used to identify risks include blood pressure tests, blood glucose tests, cholesterol tests, bone density tests, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio calculations, and fitness assessments.

The Canadian Physical Activity, Fitness and Lifestyle Approach (CPAFLA) is a specialized assessment that points out ways to improve health-related physical fitness. Health-related fitness includes the parts of physical fitness that relate to your health. It focuses on how healthy, strong and safe your heart, bones, muscles, joints and lungs are.

Tertiary Prevention

Tertiary prevention focuses on people who are already affected by a disease. The goal is to improve your quality of life by reducing disability, limiting or delaying complications, and restoring function. This is done by treating the disease and providing rehabilitation. The treatment team can include several professionals including your doctor, medical specialist, qualified exercise professional, occupational therapist and physiotherapist.

Deciding if Physical Activity is Right for You

  • Call 8-1-1 to speak with a qualified exercise professional for advice
  • Fill out the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire for Everyone (PAR-Q+). If you answer yes to any of the PAR-Q+ questions, you should take the ePARmed-X+ exam
  • Have a fitness assessment and/or lifestyle appraisal by a qualified exercise professional

Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity

Your medical condition may cause some barriers. Talk to your health care provider or a qualified exercise professional about any concerns or barriers you have and how to overcome them.

Types of Activities

There are 3 types of activities to keep your body healthy:

  • Activities for strong bones and muscles
  • Activities for safe and healthy joints and muscles
  • Activities for healthy and strong heart and lungs

If your treatment team approves, usually you can gradually progress to 30 or more minutes of moderate activity 5 to 7 days per week. You can do the activity 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Check with your health care provider to see what types and amounts of activities are best for you. Find out if an increase in physical activity will affect the medication you’re taking. Also, find out if any of your medications affect your ability for safe exercises, or affect your response. If so, chair exercises may be better.

Last Updated: June 2021