Active living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into your everyday routines, such as walking to the store or biking to work. Active living brings together urban planners, architects, transportation engineers, public health professionals, activists and other professionals to build places that encourage active living and physical activity. One example includes efforts to build sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian crossing signals and other ways for children to walk safely to and from school, as seen in the Safe Routes to School program. Recreational opportunities (parks, fitness centres etc.) close to the home or workplace, walking trails and bike lanes for transportation also encourage a more active lifestyle. Active living is a combination of physical activity and recreation activities aimed at the general public to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Active living is a growing field that emerged from the early work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the release of the Surgeon's General Report on Physical Activity and Health in 1996. In 1997, the CDC began the development of an initiative called Active Community Environments (ACEs) coordinated by Rich Killingsworth (the founding director of active living by Design ) and Tom Schmid, a senior health scientist. The main programming thrust of ACEs was an emerging initiative called Safe Routes to School that was catalyzed by a program designed by Rich Killingsworth and Jessica Shisler at CDC called KidsWalk-to-School. This program provided much needed attention to the connections of the built environment and health, especially obesity and physical inactivity. In 2000, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation formally launched their active living initiative which comprised three national programs - Active Living by Design, Active Living Research, and Active for Life. The main goal of these programs was to develop an understanding how the built environment impacted physical activity and what could be done to increase physical activity.
There are many health related benefits to being physically active and living an active life. Active living can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve your overall health and well-being, reduce stress levels, minimize health related medical costs, help you to maintain a healthy weight, assist in proper balance and posture and the maintenance of healthy bones and strong muscles. Active living can also improve your sleeping patterns and aid in the prevention of risk factors for heart disease such as blood cholesterol levels, diabetes and hypertension.
Types of physical activity
- Endurance activities increase your heart rate and strengthen your heart and your lungs. Examples include: dancing, skating, cycling and brisk walking.
- Flexibility activities improve your body’s ability to move and assist in keeping your muscles and joints relaxed. Examples include: yard work, vacuuming, stretching and golf.
- Strength activities create and maintain muscle and keep bones strong. Examples include: raking leaves, climbing stairs, lifting free weights and push-ups.
It is easy to incorporate endurance, flexibility and strength activities into your daily routine for active living. Activities such as normal household chores can fit into more than one of the above categories, and it is simple enough to switch to using the stairs instead of taking the elevators at work.
In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada supported the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) to review the Canada's Physical Activity Guides, which were updated and replaced with the Get Active Tip Sheets. The Get Active Tip Sheets are broken down into 4 age categories (5-11, 12-17, 18-64 and 65 & older).
The Get Active Tip Sheets recommend that children aged 5–11 and youth aged 12–17 should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. The recommendation for adults 18-64 and for older adults 65 years and older is at least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. These minutes do not all need to be done at the same time, but the recommendation is a minimum of 10 minutes at a time.
In Canada, there are many active living initiatives currently in place. One of the most well known programs is the ParticipACTION program, which aims to encourage Canadians to move more and increase their physical activity levels. Their mission statement is "ParticipACTION is the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Through leadership in communications, capacity building and knowledge exchange, we inspire and support Canadians to move more." Since the 1970s, ParticipACTION has been motivating Canadians to live actively and participate in sports.
- Basal metabolic rate
- National Physical Activity Guidelines
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Sustainable transport
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