Physical Activity

Taking Action

Inadequate exercise is an independent risk factor for a host of chronic health conditions, especially cardiovascular disease (CVD). When you increase your physical activity even a little, at any age, disease development and progression are slowed down. Ultimately, with consistent exercise, you can experience a decrease in chronic conditions by 20% to 50%.

Health experts advise that you dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to some kind of physical activity. Brisk walking on this schedule, for example, can reduce your blood pressure by 5% or more, thereby decreasing cardiovascular risk as well.

Physical Activity will:

  • Improve the efficiency and decrease the workload of your heart and lungs
  • Improve your HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride (fat) levels
  • Lower your blood pressure and produce an immediate decrease in blood pressure that can persist for up to 22 hours
  • Help you achieve and maintain a healthier body weight
  • Lower your blood sugar on par with glucose-lowering medications2
  • Improve your muscle tone and bone density
  • Increase your stamina (energy levels)
  • Boost your confidence, self-esteem, and sense of well-being
  • Improve your ability to cope with stress and decrease anxiety and depression
  • Lower your heart rate
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, breast cancer, and colon cancer
  • Release endorphins, the body’s natural antidepressant
  • Reduce the heart attack risk for previously inactive people by 35% to 55%3
  • Yield a 30% reduction in all causes of death

Beginning Exercise

Any increase in physical activity will yield a variety of health benefits. However, you must exercise on a regular basis to both achieve and maintain any real results. Keep in mind that when you stop exercising, the gains you’ve made are quickly lost, typically within a few weeks.

Strive to incorporate activities that fit into your daily life, like cycling or walking to work. The exercise routine you choose is more likely to become a part of your everyday life if it’s something you truly enjoy. Consider exercising with a friend. It can keep you motivated.

If you're thinking about walking, check out "Walk With Me", a toolkit designed by Ottawa Public Health to help you get started with your own walking group.

Follow these exercise tips to stay comfortable and safe:


  • Breathe steadily and in a relaxed manner while you exercise
  • Avoid straining yourself, and never hold your breath


  • Walk on flat ground, initially
  • If hills are unavoidable, walk more slowly when going uphill


  • It is best to wait an hour or two after a meal before you exercise because extra energy is required for digestion


  • Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures
  • If it is very hot and humid, walk during the cooler part of the day, such as in the morning and later at night
  • If it is extremely cold or windy, exercise indoors using stationary equipment, or walk in the hallways of your house or apartment or in a mall. If you do exercise outdoors, walk during warmer times of the day and cover your face with a scarf to help warm the air before it reaches your lungs


  • It is important that you maintain good posture. Try to keep your shoulders back and relaxed.
  • Avoid slouching forward.


  • After walking, stretch your calf muscles. They are likely to get tight as you begin to increase your daily activity.
  • Stretching your entire body will help prevent injury.

Follow these tips for staying motivated:

  • Choose an activity that you enjoy and that fits with your lifestyle.
  • Exercise with a buddy or develop a support system with friends and family that will hold you accountable.1
  •  Set realistic goals or objectives you would like to achieve, and talk openly about them with important people in your life.
  • Reward yourself when you have achieved your goals.
  • Remember to take note of your progress. Consider the effort rather than the result.
  • Keep a Physical Activity Log. This way you can see your progress and keep track of how you are feeling.
  • As your fitness improves, so too will your perceived level of effort. The decreased effort you’ll feel over time is a measure of your improvement.
  • Be prepared for lapses. Knowing they will happen can circumvent guilt. Simply return to your routine and keep going.
  • Exercise at the same time every day — eventually it will become routine. Choosing an early start time or treating exercise like an “appointment,” prevents other commitments from getting in the way.
  • Place home exercise equipment in a pleasant and easily accessible location.