Many of us excel at scheduling bouts of daily exercise to be “healthy”, but we often fall short on the hours of light physical activity that should be filling the rest of our time, and too often replace it with sedentary screen time
My boyfriend in university was a competitive national-level runner. His daily exercise schedule was painfully set in stone, it always started before sunrise with a morning run and ended with an evening workout (aka more running). He was slim, muscular, and was a model of the stereotypical image of “health”. But living with him, a different story was revealed. The bulk of his day was actually far from balanced, he spent hours eating Cheerios and watching TV, he loathed walking any distance, I never once saw him ride a bicycle, and he would never ever take the stairs instead of the elevator. He was lazy as could be, except for those 2 hours of the day- when he exercised at superhuman intensities. This is just one of many first-hand experiences that have made me question my perception of what healthy actually looks like.
Are the shredded cross-fitters flipping tractor tires across industrial parking lots on the right path? Or the mama boot campers steamrolling every hill in sight with toddlers in tow? Or is it the slender pilates enthusiasts who are doing acrobatics while leashed to shockingly expensive reformers? Who actually embodies the social construct we call healthy? Let’s be real, who am I to judge? All I am here to say is that when it comes to being “healthy”, balance is paramount, and many of us are lacking it. Just recently CSEP’s national guidelines have been updated to remind the general public, myself included, that being healthy is an around-the-clock affair and just exercising is not enough.
New Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Movement Guidelines
In late 2020, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) released new 24-hour movement guidelines. Guys, guidelines don’t usually get me excited, I am more of a loosey-goosey gal that loathes boundaries, so hear me out. The changes CSEP has made are extra special because they are current, honest, and leave just enough room for your imagination. So let’s dive in, first, the usual suspects are addressed; do a couple of strength sessions a week and at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. But then they touch on the benefits of getting optimal sleep, dropping the excess screen time, decreasing your “on the butt” time, and upping your “general moving around” in lifetime. These are the parameters that we have all needed, the ones that our FitBits are not picking up. These guidelines highlight more of the HOW, the qualitative aspects that can actually shift our health trajectory for the better.
“CSEP’s guidelines touch on the benefits of getting optimal sleep, dropping the excess screen time, decreasing your “on the butt” time, and upping your “general moving around” time”
Quick Glance at CSEP’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines
include a variety of types and intensities of physical activity
spend at least 150 minutes each week moving moderately-vigorously
do strengthening activities at least twice a week
move lightly several hours of each day
sleep 7-9 hours a night at routine times
limit sedentary time to a max of 8 hours per day
cut yourself off before 3 hours of recreational screen time/day
avoid long periods of sitting
Below is an excerpt from the guidelines, if you’re inspired to read more click the image to go directly to the CSEP page.
Don’t Leave Baby in a Car Seat All Day… Or Chain Yourself to Your Desk
I remember the public health nurse calling me after my son was born and reminding me to avoid leaving him for long periods in the car seat. As a Nurse myself, AND a Kinesiologist, I vowed to honour these recommendations and be a model mama. I pretty much avoided driving for the first year in fear of decimating his movement potential. With kid number 2, and eventually number 3, I succumbed and climbed into a minivan for a few years (when my cargo bike couldn’t go the distance). But that’s a whole other topic, my question is why does public health advise us to limit baby’s time in the car seat? Because car seats limit the baby’s potential to move, explore, and learn. When they move their brains form new pathways, they lay down foundations for future movements, they explore their environments, they learn cause and effect, their blood flows better, their muscles strengthen, their bones grow naturally, and so many more wonderful things happen. When you limit a baby’s movement for long periods every day, you limit their potential. And the same can be said about school-aged children. And the same can be said about grown adults. We are all humans and we all need a variety of movements to reach our full potentials.
“We all need a variety of movement to reach our full potentials, regardless of age.”
So the next time you are sitting at your desk for 8 straight hours without a movement break, think about that little tiny baby. Would you leave her in her car seat for that long? Hopefully not, so now share this same respect with yourself and invite more movement and more potential into your life.
Easy Tips to Implementing CSEP’s Guidelines
Integrate active transportation into your life. Look for ways to be human-powered when possible. Walk instead of drive, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or bike instead of bus.
Set timers for screen time. If you’re a parent you probably do it for your children, well now it’s time to parent yourself too.
Use technology to combat tech addiction. Recently I have been trying out apps that block websites that suck me into a cyber vortex. For the computer, I have stuck with 1Focus. For my phone, I have tried Freedom, Focus, and Quiet, but my preference has been to just set app limits in my system settings.
When sedentary work is unavoidable, take movement breaks. I am a fan of the Pomodoro technique where I work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute movement break and then repeat 4 times until I take a longer 30-minute break. I repeat this until my work is done.
Add some flavour to your mundane routines with new activities. Join a new class, instructional group, or sign up for online sessions that you’ve always wondered about. Now is a great time to sample because so many businesses are shifting online and offering free trials.
Get your partner, roommate, or friends on board. You know what they say about a sinking ship… well don’t go down with them, instead throw a life preserver and lift each other off the couch and into action.
If Intense activity is dominating your schedule then try dropping a few sessions, or lowering the intensity to save energy for more nourishing activities that will calm and balance your busy life.
Use it or Lose it: Ground Movements that Maintain Independence for Life
The inclusion of light physical activity in these new guidelines has me literally jumping for joy. If I could make one tiny addition to these new and improved guidelines it would be to explore ground movements regularly. It is so valuable for all humans, young and old, to spend time rolling around on the ground playing. If we continue this from a young age onwards, I am confident we will avoid losing essential skills that eventually serve as markers for independent living (like getting on and off the ground for one!). It might seem easy to you now (or impossible!?), but I urge you to keep spending time on the ground each and every day to keep a variety of movement patterns fresh and accessible, otherwise you risk the old adage coming true: use it or lose it.
“If we continue rolling around on the ground from a young age onwards, I am confident we will avoid losing essential skills that eventually serve as markers for independent living.”
The functional movement meditations in the movementRX library are primarily done lying on the ground. While a life with only this level of activity would obviously be far from healthy, what these sessions do provide you with is a repertoire of movements to integrate as light physical activity each and every day.
Many people would be surprised to know that I actually LOVE spending hours on the computer typing away all day. But I do practice what I preach, I set my timer, reluctantly pull myself away from my desk every 25 minutes, and move freely for five blissful minutes.
I created the movementRX library to make movement meditations more accessible. You no longer have to conform to someone else’s schedule. The library can be accessed from any device that connects to the internet and you can move at whatever time works for you. I find that the more movementRX sessions I do, the more variations I have to explore in my scheduled movement breaks. Movement is like music, we each have a repertoire of patterns that we can continue to expand upon. The more we learn, the better we improv.
Click HERE to join movementRX now and gain access $10 CAD for the first month. If you would rather start with a free sample, here are 2 free movement meditations ready to guide you to de-stress, find ease, and have fun. Perhaps you would still prefer personally guided sessions, your in luck, I am available for online or in-person sessions in Cumberland,BC. Click HERE to message me now.
“Movement is like music, we each have a repertoire of patterns that we can continue to expand upon. The more we learn the better we perform.”
P.S If these guidelines seem like an impossible stretch for you to meet right now, please remember that each shift you make is a step towards better health. Take that first step.