Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults ages 65 years and older:

An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep

Canada’s first ever 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults offer clear direction on what a healthy 24 hours looks like for Canadian adults aged 65 years and older.

These guidelines are unique because they don’t just focus on a single movement behaviour, but instead look at how all these integrate together. There are three core recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Move More – including moderate to vigorous physical activity, but for the first time the guidelines call out that light physical activity, including standing, matter too;
  • Reduce Sedentary Time; and
  • Sleep Well.

It is important to note that all types of movement matter, and a balance is required for best health. Replacing sedentary behaviour with additional physical activity and trading light physical activity for more moderate to vigorous physical activity, while preserving sufficient sleep, can provide greater health benefits. Taking small steps and making healthy movement choices throughout the day can make a big impact!

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, participating in optimal levels of movement behaviours is linked to improved anxiety, depression, dementia, cognition, and quality of life.

Preamble

This document is intended for use by policy makers, health professionals, and researchers, and it may be useful to interested members of the public.

These 24-Hour Movement Guidelines are relevant to adults aged 65 years or older, irrespective of gender, cultural background, or socio-economic status. These Guidelines may not be appropriate for adults aged 65 years or older living with a disability or a medical condition; these individuals should consider consulting the Get Active Questionnaire, disability/condition-specific recommendations, or a health professional for guidance.

Adults aged 65 years or older should participate in a range of physical activities (e.g., weight bearing/non-weight bearing, sport and recreation) in a variety of environments (e.g., home/work/community; indoors/outdoors; land/water) and contexts (e.g., leisure, transportation, occupation, household) across all seasons. Adults aged 65 years or older should limit long periods sedentary behaviours and should practice healthy sleep hygiene (routines, behaviours, and environments conducive to sleeping well).

Following the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines is associated with these health benefits:

  • a lower risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, anxiety, depression, dementia, weight gain, adverse blood lipid profile, falls and fall-related injuries; and
  • improved bone health, cognition, quality of life and physical function.

The benefits of following these Guidelines far exceed potential harms. Following these Guidelines may be challenging at times; progressing towards any of the Guideline targets will result in some health benefits.

These 24-Hour Movement Guidelines were informed by the best available evidence, expert consensus, stakeholder consultation, and consideration of values and preferences, applicability, feasibility, and equity. A glossary and more details on the Guidelines, the background research, their interpretation, guidance on how to achieve them, and recommendations for further research and surveillance are available elsewhere on this website.

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Guidelines

For health benefits, adults aged 65 years or older should be physically active each day, minimize sedentary behaviour, and achieve sufficient sleep.

A healthy 24 hours includes:

Performing a variety of types and intensities of physical activity, which includes

  • Moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activities such that there is an accumulation of at least 150 minutes per week
  • Muscle strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week
  • Physical activities that challenge balance
  • Several hours of light physical activities, including standing

Limiting sedentary time to 8 hours or less, which includes

  • No more than 3 hours of recreational screen time, and
  • Breaking up long periods of sitting as often as possible

Getting 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep on a regular basis, with consistent bed and wake-up times

Replacing sedentary behaviour with additional physical activity and trading light physical activity for more moderate to vigorous physical activity, while preserving sufficient sleep, can provide greater health benefits.

Progressing towards any of these targets will result in some health benefits.

The Whole Day Matters

Following the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines can help you make your whole day matter. There are three core recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Move More – including moderate to vigorous physical activity, but for the first time it’s clear that light activity and standing matter too;
  • Reduce Sedentary Time; and
  • Sleep Well.

It’s important to remember that some activity is better than none and it can all lead to benefits for both your physical and mental health. The routine rituals of daily living such as casual neighbourhood walks, gardening and household chores and taking stairs instead of the elevator all contribute towards a healthy 24 hours. And on days when fitting in heart-pumping activity is difficult, focusing on reducing sedentary time and preserving a good night’s rest will help adults make that whole day matter.

Following these guidelines can help make your whole day matter and provide tangible benefits to your physical and mental health. Some activity is better than none! The routine rituals of daily living such as casual neighbourhood walks, gardening, household chores and taking stairs instead of the elevator all contribute towards a healthy 24 hours. And on days when fitting in heart-pumping activity is difficult, focusing on reducing sedentary time and preserving a good night’s rest will help adults make that whole day matter.

Let’s Talk Intensity!

Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause older adults to sweat a little and to breathe harder.

Activities like:

  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycling

Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause older adults to sweat and be ‘out of breath’.

Activities like:

  • Cross-country skiing
  • Swimming