Make time for movement

New guidelines provide opportunities for people to get healthy 24 hours a day

Robert Ross, Ian Janssen, Jennifer Tomason, Amy Latimer-Cheung

With COVID-19 posing many challenges to overall physical and mental health, it is more important than ever for people to have a clear understanding of what they can do throughout the day to stay healthy. 

Queen’s University researchers Robert Ross and Jennifer Tomasone, Ian Janssen and Amy Latimer-Cheung have helped develop the first ever 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults that show what a healthy use of 24 hours looks like. Unlike the World Health Organization guidelines that focus on moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity and sedentary behaviour, these guidelines are novel because they integrate the three movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep) for those aged 18-64 and 65 and older.

“The underlying principle of 24-Hr movement guidelines is that, as opposed to considering behaviours in isolation, 24-Hr movement guidelines recognize that the movement behaviours co-exist. In other words, the composition of behaviours (sleep, sedentary behaviour, and physical activity) across the entire 24-hour day is associated with health.” 

The Faculty of Arts and Science provided financial support to help create these guidelines which were developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Queen’s University, ParticipACTION, and a network of researchers and stakeholders from across Canada.

“The guidelines allow adults to engage in movement behaviours in a way that reflect and respect individual and personal preferences,” says Dr. Ross (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Chair, Guideline Development Panel. “They empower people to feel good about the simple changes they can make to improve their overall health. They provide opportunities to engage in healthy behaviours without having to go to a fitness center or purchase special equipment. If you don’t want to jog, go for a walk instead. If you can’t increase physical activity on a given day, decrease sedentary time.”

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines focus on three core recommendations for adults:

  • Move More: Add movement throughout your day, including a variety of types and intensities.  Aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week, and several hours of light physical activities, including standing. Those 65+ should also include physical activities that challenge balance.
  • Reduce Sedentary Time: Limit sedentary time to eight hours or less per day including no more than three hours of recreational screen time and breaking up long periods of sitting where possible.
  • Sleep Well: For those aged 18-64 set yourself up for seven to nine hours of good quality sleep on a regular basis, and seven to eight hours for those 65+ years.  Consistent bed and wake up times are also key.

“To increase Canadians’ awareness of the new guidelines, our knowledge translation team has created a suite of evidence-based public-facing materials,” says Dr. Tomasone (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Chair, Knowledge Translation Team. “These materials are designed to highlight that by moving more, reducing sedentary time, and sleeping well, we can make our whole day matter for our health.”

According to the research, adults following the guidelines can achieve health benefits including a lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, several cancers, and improved bone health. Specific to psychosocial health, participation in optimal levels of movement behaviours has been linked to improved anxiety, depression, dementia, cognition and quality of life. For adults 65+, they can also see a lower risk of falls and fall-related injuries.

The 24-Hr movement guidelines can be accessed free of charge on the CSEP website.

For more ideas and resources on how to get more active, visit ParticipACTION.com and download the ParticipACTION app.