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Last updated: January 2024
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted levels of physical activity and/or sedentary behaviour among people of all ages. Whether it was because of physical distancing recommendations (such as working from home), public health measures on activities and sports (such as closing of recreation centres), or experiencing the virus first-hand.
If your daily movement has been affected or you are interested in making changes to how much you move and/or sit, read on to learn what is recommended and why it is important.
How much should you move, sit and sleep on a daily basis?
Did you know that Canada has 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for people of all ages? These Guidelines present what a healthy 24 hours looks like when it comes to movement behaviours. The Guidelines don't just focus on one movement behaviour, but instead on how physical activity, sedentary time and sleep are intertwined.
Why are physical activity and sedentary behaviour important to physical health?
Physical activity naturally occurs throughout our day in a variety of ways. Cleaning your home, going for a walk and stocking shelves at work are just a few examples. Physical activity done on a regular basis provides many benefits to our physical health. Two benefits relevant to COVID-19 are:
- improved immune health which is linked to a lower risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19
- decreased risk of chronic health conditions, some of which are linked to a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity
Like physical activity, sedentary behaviour naturally occurs throughout our day. Sedentary behaviour refers to waking activities in a sitting, reclining or lying position that require little energy expenditure. Examples include watching television while reclining, playing video games while sitting and driving a vehicle. But unlike physical activity, sedentary behaviour can have negative effects on our physical health. Lengthy bouts of sitting without interruption are linked to:
- loss of muscle mass and strength and loss of bone mass
- higher cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- increased risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and obesity
Next time you find yourself sitting for lengthy bouts, consider breaking them up by moving your body. If you are more inclined, try an exercise snack. Not only will you be reducing your sedentary behaviour but increasing your physical activity and improving your health!
Why are physical activity and sedentary behaviour important to mental health?
The COVID-19 pandemic not only impacted movement behaviours, but mental health as well. Many people, of varying ages, experienced and continue to experience a decline in mental health. If you would like to learn about or find supports for mental health, visit Help Starts Here.
Mental health is complex and there are several factors that influence it. Two of those factors happen to be physical activity and sedentary behaviour. The mental health benefits of physical activity include decreased depression, anxiety and negative mood and improved cognitive function (such as memory and processing speed). In contrast, high levels of sedentary behaviour are linked to a greater risk of depression and reduced cognitive function. Even more reason to break up those length bouts of sitting with movement!
How can you make changes to how much you move and/or sit?
Below are a few resources to help you be more active and less sedentary. They include information on returning to physical activity after recovery from COVID-19.
For support with moving more or sitting less, contact the Qualified Exercise Professionals at HealthLink BC's Physical Activity Services free of charge.
Resources for children and youth
- Appetite to Play (Child Health BC, British Columbia)
- Active For Life (B2ten, Canada)
- Exercise Right for Kids (Exercise Right, Australia)
Resources for adults and older adults
- Active For Health: Helping You Make It Happen (HealthLink BC, British Columbia)
- Active For Health: For General Health (HealthLink BC, British Columbia)
- Active For Health: For Persons with Chronic Conditions (HealthLink BC, British Columbia)
Resources on physical activity after COVID-19
- Returning to Physical Activity After COVID-19 (Exercise Is Medicine, USA)
- COVID Recovery (Moving Medicine, UK)
- Physical activity and exercises to manage breathlessness after COVID-19 (Provincial Health Services Authority, British Columbia)