TORONTO – While much attention has been devoted to monitoring the activity levels – or lack thereof – among Canadian kids, many of the country’s adults are also at risk of spending too many of their waking hours being idle.
With its Sneak It In campaign, which runs until Friday, ParticipAction is encouraging adults to break up sedentary time spent commuting and sitting in the office. To help reach that goal, they’re encouraged to take active breaks and boost their fitness levels by “sneaking in” 10-minute bursts of physical activity into their workdays.
According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Health Measures Survey from 2007 to ’09, just over 15 per cent of the country’s adults were meeting the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity a week.
The figures for older children are similarly grim. In its annual report card on the physical activity level of children and youth released last year, Active Healthy Kids Canada revealed that only seven per cent of five- to 11-year-olds and four per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds met recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Walking quickly, skating and bike riding are examples of moderate activities, while running, basketball and soccer are examples of vigorous activities.
StatsCan found that adults spent an average of 9.5 hours a day – or approximately 69 per cent of their waking hours – in sedentary activities, which involve little physical movement and a low expenditure of energy.
ParticipAction president and CEO Elio Antunes said long stretches of time spent sitting is detrimental to one’s health and it’s important for adults to make a conscious effort to incorporate activity throughout the day to help limit potential health risks.
“Too much sedentary behaviour has led to increases in risk of diabetes, even heart attacks, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
“A lot of people with sore backs is due to long-term sitting. So there’s a whole range of health issues that’s related to too much sedentary behaviour -specifically sitting – so breaking that behaviour up will contribute to (addressing) those issues.”
Antunes said adults can also wear a pedometer and aim to clock 10,000 steps within a day, and can even transform the exercise into a mini-challenge with their colleagues.
Adults don’t need to devote lunch hours at the gym to see an uptick in their activity levels but can achieve their target with short bursts of everyday activities “that should get your heart rate going,” he noted.
“When you’re going out to lunch for that sandwich, maybe take that extra walk for 10 minutes, or park your car a bit further from the front doors or take public transit.”
Antunes said he recognized that individuals are busy and that breaking up sedentary time is a challenge within today’s fast-paced environment. But it’s as essential as carrying out a work assignment and can perhaps be accomplished in tandem with office-related tasks, he noted.
“If you’re working towards a deadline, working on a focused project, there are things you can do that doesn’t necessarily impact your productivity,” Antunes said, suggesting individuals stand versus sitting during phone calls and walk to speak with colleagues face-to-face versus sending emails.
“If you have your weekly management meeting, get up instead of sitting down and that breaks up your sedentary time. Anything you can do to get off that chair.”
Antunes said he also has colleagues who book certain walking routes into their agendas, and suggested workers consider going for a walking meeting versus booking a boardroom for their gatherings.
“You’re still being productive … but you’re reducing your sedentary time while being productive.”
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