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One Step 🏃 in the Right Direction

Here is a fun fact that I always share with my clients to encourage more physical activity throughout the day: “Individuals who do not exercise regularly can lose up to 80% of their muscle strength by age 65”. With this in mind, there is no better time to start moving than now!

Although we are well aware that physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, it is not that easy to integrate into your routine on a consistent basis. Many of us are tired after a long day of work and simply do not have the energy to exercise, and some feel overwhelmed when it comes to following an exercise plan that they give up before starting. The solution to these common predicaments? Start small, and find someone to help you maintain accountability to these small changes. Build on your foundation overtime, and it will stick long-term.

In this blog, we hope to equip you with the tools you need to create your very own exercise plan, increase intrinsic motivation to ramp up your activity levels and build healthy habits that are sustainable overtime. Let’s begin!

Here is how you can instantly participate in the “Healthy U Steps Challenge”, and feel like a winner already:

  1. Track your daily steps for 3-7 days, and then calculate your average daily steps.

  2. Now that you have your average daily steps, add 10-20% to that number and a new daily activity that can help you achieve that goal.

Some activity examples include: parking further, taking the stairs, get off 1 bus stop early and walk the rest, complete a Youtube activity workout, download an exercise app for ideas, skip the couch and go for an evening stroll, find your nearest hiking trail for weekend adventures.

How to track your steps?

  1. Most cell phones (e.g. smartphones) have a health app built into your phone settings, that automatically tracks your daily steps.

  2. Good ol’ pedometers, found HERE on Amazon

  3. Need a watch? Try a “fitbit”, found HERE on Amazon

Let’s not forget WHY it is important to increase your physical activity?

Data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey in 2018 and 2019 showed that only 50% of Canadian adults (aged 18-79) are meeting their physical activity recommendations. Moreover, increased screen time has also pushed the notion of a sedentary lifestyle, making it even harder for Canadians to reach their physical activity recommendations. The combination of increased screen time, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, greatly increases your risk of health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression/anxiety. So what’s the solution, a little less screen time, and a little more movement. Dr. Mike Evans explains it perfectly in his video, entitled “23 and ½ hours” in just under 10 minutes - he will win you over immediately and get you moving pronto! A must watch.

OH, how do you speed up your metabolism, you ask (aka one of the most common questions clients ask me as their Registered Dietitian)?. Simple answer, movement, particularly muscle strengthening.. Muscle mass accounts for ~60% of your metabolic rate, so the more muscle you build / maintain over time, the happier your metabolism will be!

NUTRITION SIDE NOTE: According to Harvard Health, eating more protein (more like the upper range of DRIs, not excessive amounts) can also support a faster metabolism. Your metabolism increases whenever you eat, digest, and store food, a process called “thermic effect” of food. Protein has a higher thermic effect compared to fats and carbohydrates, because it takes longer for your body to burn protein and absorb it. I am not saying double up on chicken, but I kind of am!

SO, what is the takeaway here? The best approach to increase your metabolism involves combining adequate protein intake with weight training, which thereby increases muscle mass - and that also boosts your metabolism.

Well, how much is this going to cost me (in my time, of course)?

Let’s turn to the guidelines! These guidelines are not just allocated time for movement, these guidelines are the FIRST EVER 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, where it explains what your entire day/night should look like.

In October of 2020, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and many researchers/stakeholders released the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines - an integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep. Check out the details below for adults 18-64 years of age.

Let’s build on this, thinking about “structured” and “unstructured” movements you can incorporate into your day.

Unstructured activity (aka active living) is simply implementing ways to be more active throughout your day without scheduling allocated time for it. For example, taking desk breaks every 30-60 minutes with a 10-minute walk, or having a dance party with your children instead of watching a movie.


  • 20-minute outdoor run / speed walk

  • 45-minute Zumba class / take a dance class

  • 60-minute spin class / go for a bike ride

  • 45-minute yoga / pilates class

  • 30-minute muscle strengthening regimen

Structured activity (aka scheduled exercise) involves designated exercise times throughout your week that can be cardio (increased heart rate exercise), muscle strengthening, or flexibility. I always recommend starting with a structured activity you truly enjoy. I love my cardio, so this is what I typically incorporate 2-3 times each week, and eventually I get to muscle strengthening. What’s your preferred type of exercise?


  • Park further away from entrances

  • Take 3 desk breaks throughout the day, walking for 10 minutes each

  • Commercial break movement

  • Take the stairs instead of elevator / escalator

  • March on the spot while cooking in the kitchen

  • Instead of going to socialize at someone’s house, go for a walk with a friend instead

Bottom line, we need a balance of structured and unstructured movements throughout our day / week.

After reading this blog, we hope to have peaked your interest in adding more movement to your daily routine. If we haven’t sold you yet - one more thing to mention: physical activity triggers a release of dopamine and serotonin (happy hormones), which is associated with improved mood. Remember, start small and find your ‘exercise buddy’ to keep you accountable. Your heart will thank you later :)


Blog Collaborators: Chashma Mohammad Akram BSc candidate and Elisa Porretta BSc


Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2022). Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines:

An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep, from:

Chen, S., Stevinson, C., Tian, T., Chen, L., & Ku, P. (2020). Accelerometer-measured daily steps and subjective cognitive ability in older adults: A two-year follow-up study. Experimental Gerontology, 133, 110874-110874, from:

Doc Mike Evans (2011). 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? Youtube Video, from:

Dwyer T, Pezic A, Sun C, Cochrane J, Venn A, et al. (2015). Correction: Objectively Measured Daily Steps and Subsequent Long Term All-Cause Mortality: The Tasped Prospective Cohort Study. PLOS ONE 10(12): e0146202, from:

Participaction (2021). At-home exercise videos, from

Seguin, D., Kuenzel, E., Morton, J. B., & Duerden, E. G. (2021). School’s out: Parenting stress and screen time use in school-age children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 6, 100217, from:


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