Physical activity

two girls on a soccer pitch in uniform.
COMPASS differentiates between two types of physical activity:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities: increase your heart rate and make you breathe hard and sweat (examples include jogging, team sports, fast dancing, or jump-rope)
  • Moderate-intensity activities: lower intensity activities (examples include walking, biking to school, and recreational swimming)

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that youth aged 12-17 accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.

Why is physical activity a health issue?

The benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and have been well established. Research consistently shows that people who are physically active have less risk for developing:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • hypertension
  • depression
  • osteoporosis
  • premature death from any cause.1

In addition, the more physically active youth are, the more health benefits they will experience.2,3 Even for youth who are generally not physically active and/or are at risk for disease (e.g., obese youth, youth with hypertension), moderate amounts of physical activity result in health improvements.2

Physically active youth are also less susceptible to become smokers4,5 and are less likely to binge drink and use marijuana.5 They are also more likely to feel more connected to their school and have higher levels of academic achievement.6

For ideas about how your school can help students become more physically active, contact your local public health professionals listed in your School Health Profile.

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1Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801-809.

2Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A. G. (2010). Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7, 40-56.

3Ekelund, U., Luan, J., Sherar, L. B., Esliger, D. W., Griew, P., Cooper, A. (2012). Moderate to vigorous physical activity and sedentary time and cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(7), 704-712.

4Leatherdale, S. T., Wong, S. L., Manske, S. R., & Colditz, G. A. (2008). Susceptibility to smoking and its association with physical activity, BMI, and weight concerns among youth. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 10(3), 499-505.

5Terry-McElrath, Y. M., O’Malley, P. M., & Johnston, L. D. (2011). Exercise and substance use among American youth, 1991-2009. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40(5), 530-540.

6Kristjánsson, A. L., Sigfúsdottir, I., D., Allegrante, J. P., & Helgason, Á. R. (2009). Adolescent health behavior, contentment in school, and academic achievement. American Journal of Health Behavior, 33(1), 69-79.

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