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Let’s Get Physical: Improving Healthy Active Living for All

Nov 02, 2016
Abhi Bhandari
Research Associate
Health Economics and Policy
Thy Dinh
Health Economics and Policy

Canadians of all ages are being negatively impacted by physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour. It remains a critical public health issue. For example:

  • Only one in five adults meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, and the majority of Canadians lead a predominately sedentary lifestyle.1
  • Only 14 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 and 5 per cent of youth aged 12 to 17 meet the recommended physical activity guidelines.2
  • Children aged 5 to 11 spend almost eight hours a day, and youth aged 12 to 17 spend more than nine hours a day being sedentary.3

How Can Canadians be Encouraged to Increase Physical Activity Levels and Reduce Sedentary Behaviour in Their Daily Lives?

The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care began this work through our Moving Ahead research series, which has estimated that getting just 10 per cent of the Canadian adult population to sit less and move more could result in savings to the health care system and boost the Canadian economy by an astounding $7.5 billion by the year 2040.4 The series has identified and will continue to identify cost-effective, scalable and sustainable interventions to promote and improve healthy active living among Canadians of all ages and in different settings, including the workplace,5 schools, the community, and the primary health care system.

School-Based Interventions as an Opportunity to Improve Kids’ Physical Activity Levels

Yesterday we released the fifth research briefing in this series, Moving Ahead: School-Based Interventions to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour, which focuses on programs and policies that could be scaled up across schools in Canada to improve physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour at school and outside of school among children and youth. Although much of the research on effective and cost-efficient programs seems to be targeted more to children (aged 5 to 11) rather than youth (aged 12 to 17), there were many interventions that have the potential to be scaled broadly across the country and that could generate significant improvements in physical activity levels. Some of the recommendations in this report include better integration of physical activity into curriculum, including innovative approaches to teaching methods such as the use of tactical gameplay; classroom activity breaks; active community to school; modified playgrounds; and initiatives aimed at reducing screen time at school and at home that are integrated into the school.

A webinar discussing the report’s findings as well as the economics of physical activity is scheduled for December 8, 2016.

Consultations Towards the Development of a Pan-Canadian Framework for Physical Activity

The Conference Board has been asked by federal, provincial, and territorial ministers6 responsible for sport, physical activity, and recreation (SPAR) to assist in engaging key stakeholders in health, physical activity, sport and recreation, in addition to other relevant disciplines and sectors that impact physical activity, in order to inform the development of a physical activity framework. This framework will complement other existing government and community-led policies and programs, such as Active Canada 20/20: A Physical Activity Strategy and Change Agenda for Canada, the Canadian Sport Policy, and the Framework for Recreation in Canada 2015: Pathways to Well-Being, among others, and will consider new and emerging policy approaches. It will be completed for endorsement by federal, provincial, and territorial SPAR ministers in July 2017.

The first stage in the consultation process is a survey for completion by the general public, all levels of government, and all relevant sectors of society by November 11, 2016. We encourage anyone who wants to have a voice in the development of this framework to share their thoughts in this survey and, as a bonus, respondents have a chance to enter a draw for a FitBit!

Please note: The survey deadline has been extended to 11:59 PM EST, November 21, 2016.

1    John C. Spence and Thy Dinh, Moving Ahead: Taking Steps to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2016).

2    ParticipACTION, The Biggest Risk Is Keeping Kids Indoors: The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth (Toronto: ParticipACTION, 2015.)

3    Ibid.

4    Fares Bounajm, Thy Dinh, and Louis Thériault, Moving Ahead: The Economic Impact of Reducing Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2014).

5    Louise Chenier, Moving Ahead: Workplace Interventions to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2015).

6    Excluding Quebec.

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