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We all know that exercise is encouraged as a natural means of disease prevention. The World Health Organization has identified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (behind high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose). Half of the body’s functional decline observed between the ages of 30 and 70 is due to an inactive lifestyle and not to aging itself.

Physical activity can help prevent chronic disease including Type II diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise strengthens your heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, enhances blood flow, reduces your resting heart rate, increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL, good cholesterol) and lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL, bad cholesterol). All of these benefits reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and hypertension.

Exercise can help improve self-esteem, energy, stress and resilience to stress. During physical activity, the body releases chemicals called endorphins that can directly elevate your mood. The feelings that follow a workout are often described as “euphoric” and are accompanied by an energizing outlook.  Incorporating physical activity into your schedule routinely helps you feel better about yourself and promotes a positive cycle. Exercise helps the body to use calories more efficiently, increases basal metabolic rate, reduces appetite and body fat, all aiding with weight loss and weight control.

Physical activity is essential for healthy growth and development. It is never too early to encourage healthy habits. In childhood, regular physical activity improves development of cardiovascular fitness, strength and bone density. In adulthood, weight-bearing physical activity reduces the rate of bone loss associated with osteoporosis. Regular exercise maintains strength and flexibility, balance and coordination and helps reduce the risk of falls with age. Physical activity prolongs good health and independence.

Finding the time in your daily schedule to exercise can often be difficult. There are 1440 minutes in one day. According to the revised Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines released by the CSEP (the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology) children (ages 5 to 11) and youth (ages 12 to 17) are recommended to:

  • accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily
  • include vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week.
  • include activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week.

Adults aged 18 to 64 should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, in 10 minutes bouts or more. This can include a brisk walk, jogging, cycling and dancing. Stretching and weight training strengthens your body and improves your fitness level.

Regular physical activity helps protect you against some of the leading causes of illness and should be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. To develop a new habit it takes 21 days, so work up to the new regulations. Start slow and increase the length of time and intensity. After 21 days reassess your weight, your energy, your blood pressure and think about how you feel (please refer to Changing Habits).


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada:
  2. World Health Organization: Exercise