Active Living- A new concept

Lena Zimmo / Health promotion researcher
07 March, 2016

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During my work in school- based physical activity promotion, I received this feedback many times from teachers “Doing some activities during working hours such as providing physically active teaching methods will add nothing either to teachers or students, in term of physical activity, as physical activity can be only accomplished by doing exercises”. Therefore, I found it really important to introduce people with this article to make them aware about the shift in the physical activity concept during the past three decades.  


The meaning of being physically active has been re-conceptualized many times over the past thirty years.  There were gradual shifts in public health recommendations; from emphasizing vigorous activities towards including moderate ones, to finally facilitate the adoption of active living.  At the end of the 1970s, physical activity for the purpose of health benefits was accomplished by 20 continuous minutes of “vigorous exercises” three or more times a week. Vigorous exercises are those which cause people to sweat and to be out of breath such as running and swimming. In the mid-1990s, a significant change occurred in the conceptualization of physical activity, as moderate intensity activities were highlighted. The report from US Department of Health and Human Services stated that accumulating 30- 45 minutes of “moderate activities”, such as gardening or brisk walking, on most days of the week could be associated with significant health benefits. Moderate activities are those which cause people to sweat a little and to breath harder such as brisk walking.  While these guidelines gave people the option to do moderate activities, it also highlighted the extra benefits of vigorous exercise.  The latest physical activity guidelines are consistent with those published in 1996, as it also provided the population with a wide range of options regarding the intensity and duration of physical activities.  The recommendations give healthy adult the option of doing moderate physical activity for a minimum of 150 minutes each week, or vigorous physical activity for 75 minutes each week, or any equivalent mixture of both moderate and vigorous activities.

 Until the end of the 1990s, the focus of health professionals was to promote leisure related physical activities.  However, through studying the environmental and policy factors that influence physical activity, health professionals noticed the interest of other occupations such as outdoor recreation professionals, and urban and transportation planners in promoting physical activity. They were interested in designing neighborhoods and streets in a way that would motivate people to be physically active in order to reduce traffic congestion, preserve green environments, and increase social capital.  The work of these professionals has expanded physical activity to include daily activities.  Consequently, the concept of active living began to be conceptualized and adopted by different sectors, including health care.  Generally, active living has been defined as incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily lifestyle for different purposes. This broad concept includes household and work associated activities as well as leisure and transportation related ones. Some researchers specify a minimum duration and frequency to achieve this concept. It is argued that this routine physical activity should be done with the aim of accumulating a minimum of 30 minutes daily each day in the week or in most days of the week. 

In conclusion, people should avoid inactivity as some physical activity is better than nothing. People who participate in any amount of physical activity will gain some health benefits. Therefore, each person should try to adapt physically active lifestyle in home and workplace, for the transportation or for recreation purposes, as adapting physically active lifestyle is the first steps toward moderate to vigorous physical activity.



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