Reflections on Physical Activity and Health: What Should We Recommend?

Can J Cardiol. 2016 Apr;32(4):495-504. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2016.01.024. Epub 2016 Mar 17.


The health benefits of regular physical activity are irrefutable; virtually everyone can benefit from being active. The evidence is overwhelming with risk reductions of at least 20%-30% for more than 25 chronic medical conditions and premature mortality. Even higher risk reductions (ie, ≥ 50%) are observed when objective measures of physical fitness are taken. International physical activity guidelines generally recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity. A critical review of the literature indicates that half of this volume of physical activity might lead to marked health benefits. There is compelling evidence to support health promotion strategies that emphasize that health benefits can be accrued at a lower volume and/or intensity of physical activity. Public health policies are needed that reduce the barriers to physical activity participation such that everyone can reap the benefits of physical activity. It is also important to highlight that sedentary time (particularly sitting time) carries independent health risks. The simple message of "move more and sit less" likely is more understandable by contemporary society and is formed on the basis of a strong body of evidence. For practitioners who work directly with clients, it is recommended that an individualized prescription (dosage) that takes into consideration the unique characteristics and needs of the client is provided. Physical activity or exercise promotion should not be done in isolation; it should be part of an integrated approach to enhance healthy lifestyle behaviours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors