Physical Activity

Why be active? 

Being active is part of a healthy lifestyle and offers benefits for all ages and abilities, such as increasing cardiovascular fitness, strength, and bone density. It can also help with:

  • Lowering the risk of many medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, breast cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.
  • Improving mental health and energy levels.
  • Improving flexibility, balance, and coordination.
  • Lowering the risk of falls, keeping us strong and independent.
  • Contributing to healthy growth and development in children.

 The good news is that it is never too late to add more physical activity into your daily routine.  

Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines provide recommendations for: 

  • Getting the right amount and type of physical activity.  
  • Limiting sedentary behaviour (like sitting).  
  • Getting enough sleep.

“Make Your Whole Day Matter. Move More. Reduce Sedentary Time. Sleep Well.” – Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)

How much physical activity do we need?

As we get older, our movement needs change. But no matter our age, we should always try to move more and sit less. 

We also need to get enough moderate and vigorous activity to increase our heart rate and make us breathe and work harder.

Take the “Talk Test” to know if the activity you are doing is moderate or vigorous intensity.

  • Moderate intensity exercise allows you to talk, but not sing (for example, brisk walking). 
  • With vigorous intensity exercise, you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath (for example, running or cross-country skiing).

To get the most health benefits, adults should be getting:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.  
  • Muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week.
  • Several hours of light physical activity, including standing, every day. 

Review the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines to find out how much and what type of physical activity you should be doing, based on your age or condition:

 *Consult with your health practitioner to ask if any adjustments are needed.

You can still get health benefits if you do not reach the recommended amounts. Just move your body more!

What is sedentary behaviour?

Sedentary behaviour is time spent doing activities that involve sitting for long periods of time or doing very little movement, like watching TV, using the computer, or playing video or computer games.

Did you know?

You should have between zero and three hours of recreational screen time each day, depending on your age. Check out the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines to learn the maximum amount of sitting, screen time, and sedentary time you should get in a day.

Can you be physically active and sedentary at the same time?

Yes! It is possible to be physically active AND sedentary!

If you meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity for your age group but are sedentary for long periods during the day – sitting in front of a computer or reclining while watching TV – you are at increased risk.

Check out the Less Sitting is Better infographic.

It is important to break up sedentary time by standing, moving or walking. Look for opportunities to stand and move whenever possible. Moving more and sitting less will help reduce your risk for chronic disease and improve bone density and mental health. 

Tips to get active
If you would like to make physical activity a priority, there are many easy things you can do! Any movement is good for our health and it is never too late to start moving more.  

Did you know? 

The top five barriers to being physically active include: 

  • No time 
  • No energy
  • No motivation
  • No buddy
  • No confidence 

Learn how to overcome the 5 most common barriers to physical activity and enjoy the many benefits of being more active! 

Watch this video for motivation!

What is the single best thing we can do for our health? 

 Prepare to be physically active

Has it been a while since you have been physically active? 

Complete the Get Active Questionnaire to decide if you should get advice from a health care provider or certified exercise professional before you increase your activity level. 

 Build physical activity into your day!
  • Take the stairs instead of using an elevator or escalator.
  • Park farther away to increase your steps.
  • Bike, walk or bus instead of driving.
  • Get off at an earlier bus stop and walk the rest of the way.
  • Keep a pair of comfortable shoes at work and go for a walk at lunch.
  • Carry your groceries home.
  • Do a variety of activities you enjoy and invite friends and family to join you.
  • Use Active Transportation.
 Set realistic goals to increase your daily activity
  • Set physical activity goals and make a plan to reach them.
  • Start slow and increase the amount of time you spend doing physical activity by 10 minutes at a time.
  • Do stretches and exercises using your body weight.
  • Try new activities! Join an activity group, team or a club.
  • Find a fitness buddy who also wants to become more active!
 Spend more time outside!

Being active in nature feels great and can improve your physical and mental healthFortunately there are many beautiful parks and green space to explore all-year-round in Ottawa and Gatineau. 

For information about trails in Ottawa and the surrounding area, go to Walking Resources. 

Consider these outdoor activities: 

  • Gardening
  • Walking or wheeling
  • Cycling
  • Skating
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Snow shoeing
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking or canoeing
  • Paddle boarding 

Prepare for being active outside: 

 Physical activity resources
Check your local fitness and community centres for programs that interest you or your family. If you don’t have the equipment you need to be active, check out the Free and Low-Cost Supports for Physical Activity section for options. 
 City of Ottawa resources
The City of Ottawa offers the following: 
 Exercise videos

Consult with your health care provider before trying these videos:

 Resources and information for inclusive physical activity

Check your local fitness and community centres and the City of Ottawa for programs that meet your needs.  

Below are some suggestions for where you can find more information:  

 Sample active workplace policy

Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic conditions and improve mental well-being, as well as boost productivity at work. It contributes to positive mental health by improving mood, coping with stress, and reducing anxiety and depression. Organizations that value work-life balance and are committed to employee health should consider implementing an active workplace policy.

Here is sample Active Workplace Policy you can edit to meet your needs. 

 Information and resources for older adults

Physical activity is key to preventing fallsIt is important to find activities that promote movement, build strength and challenge your balance. 

For more suggestions, look at Tips to Get Active. 

 Reports about physical activity
 Free and low-cost supports for physical activity

Supports are available to help you or your family members to participate in sports. Some City of Ottawa facilities offer Play Free drop in activities. Check your local City of Ottawa’s facility’s web page to learn if Play Free drop-in activities are offered, and for details about registration and equipment requirements. 

Financial supports

Eligible individuals and families in Ottawa can qualify for financial support to access active living programming.

Low or no-cost sports equipment

Thrift stores and local stores that specialize in used sports equipment may sell low-cost sports clothing or equipment that is in good condition.

Individuals, families or groups looking to borrow or rent sports equipment can look into these or other low-cost options:

 Helmet safety
 See Helmet Safety webpage.
 Active transportation - walk, bike and wheel

What is active transportation?

Active transportation is getting yourself from one place to another using human-power like walking, cycling, or skateboarding. 

The built environment includes the design and layout of the communities where people live, work and play. A healthy built environment can promote being active and other healthy habits. There are many health benefits of using transit or active transportation. Consider walking, biking or using transit.

Know where to find public washrooms in Ottawa and downtown.

 Walking tips and resources

Walking tips

  • Aim to walk for 30 minutes, 5 or 6 times per week.
  • Walk with family and friends to combine social and physical activity.
  • If you are unable to walk outdoors, walk in a building or at a shopping mall.
  • Join a local walking group. There are many walking groups that meet in different parts of the city and offer opportunities to meet new people while you explore new areas. 
  • Use a pedometer or smartphone app to track your steps.
  • Bring a cell phone in case of emergency. If you need to use your cell phone, find a safe place to stop.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen when walking outdoors.
  • If you are concerned about falling, use assistive devices (e.g. a cane, walker or ice grippers).
  • Consider using walking poles to help you:
    • Strengthen your upper body
    • Improve posture
    • Reduce stress on knees and lower back
  • To increase visibility, wear fluorescent colours during the day. Wear yellow or red clothing, reflective armbands or vests, or flashing lights when it is dark.
  • To learn more about pedestrian safety, visit Safer Roads Ottawa.

Walking resources

walking school bus is active transportation and helps children meet their 60 minutes of recommended daily physical activity.

There are many benefits for children who walk or cycle to school regularly. Visit the Ottawa Safety Council to find out more.

Know where to find public washrooms in Ottawa and downtown.

 Cycling resources

There is nothing quite like exploring your neighbourhood (or another one!) while on your bike. You get to see your environment from a different perspective that is sure to put a smile on your face. Give it a try!

Are you an experienced cyclist? Share your joy of cycling with those less able by volunteering: Cycling Without Age

Protect yourself by learning about helmet safety and which helmet is best for you.

Education and safety

Cycling maps

Cycling trails

Local cycling campaigns


Safety in sports

Everyone who takes part in sports has the right to be safe.


Government of Canada

Rowan’s Law: Concussion Safety (Ministry of of Culture, Tourism and Sport of Ontario)

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport

Sport for Life

Ontario Sport Network

True Sport Principles (available in various languages)

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