Physical activity and chronic disease prevention

The benefits of regular physical activity in preventing chronic disease have been widely reported. On average, physically active people outlive those who are inactive. Regular physical activity can also help manage the symptoms of chronic disease and improve quality of life. For example, swimming can reduce pain in people with arthritis.

What diseases can regular physical activity can help prevent and/or manage?

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Some cancers
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Depression and anxiety

What are other benefits of regular physical activity?

  • Greater sense of wellbeing
  • Maintain proper body weight
  • Improve strength and flexibility
  • Increase energy
  • Improve balance
  • Improve sleep
  • Prevent falls and fractures

How much physical activity does a person need?

To maintain good health every person should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the day, on five or more days of the week. If you have a chronic disease or are inactive, consult your doctor before you begin an exercise program.

What is considered moderate physical activity?

Moderate physical activity can be almost any activity that makes you feel the way you do when you walk briskly for 30 minutes.

These include:

  • Dancing
  • Riding a bike
  • Gardening
  • Vacuuming
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Wheeling oneself in a wheelchair

Also, these activities can be done 10 minutes at a time over the course of the day, instead of 30 minutes at one time.

What if I’m not currently physically active?

Even small increases in light to moderate activity will improve your health if you are not currently active. It is important to start slowly and check with your doctor before getting started. For people who are inactive or who have a chronic disease, try starting with 5 minutes a day and find something you like to do. Then gradually increase your activity level.

Above all, find something that you enjoy doing and stick with it!