In Canada, only 15 per cent of adults meet the minimum guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week and Canadians are spending most of their waking hours, upwards to 10 hours, sitting or otherwise being sedentary.
Surroundings, incentives and ability to influence how and how much Canadians move
Ottawa, May 7, 2015 -- In Canada, only 15 per cent of adults meet the minimum guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week and Canadians are spending most of their waking hours, upwards to 10 hours, sitting or otherwise being sedentary.
- This is Screen-Free Week, which calls for individuals to step away from their digital devices.
- Most Canadians are physically inactive and spend most of their day sitting or otherwise being sedentary.
- Getting 10 per cent of Canadians to move more and sit less today could save the health care system $2.6 billion and boost the economy by $7.5 billion by 2040.
- Sit-stand workstations, green open spaces, time for recreational physical activity in schools, and community walking and bike paths, are some examples of effective environmental changes that support healthy active living.
May 4-10 is Screen-Free Week – children, families, and communities around the world are urged to turn off their televisions, computers, and other digital devices in favour of other activities including physical activity. A new publication from The Conference Board of Canada, Moving Ahead: Taking Steps to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour, outlines the criteria for planning strategies, policies and programs — collectively known as interventions—to promote physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour.
"Effective interventions increase the opportunity, capability, and motivation for individuals to move more and sit less. Interventions will be unsuccessful if individuals have to make rational choices about their behaviour in environments that do not support them" said Dr. John C. Spence, co-author of the publication.
"The environment in which Canadians live, work, learn, and play can help or hinder healthy active living," said Dr. Thy Dinh, co-author of the publication. “To improve levels of physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour, we need to implement cost-effective interventions in communities, schools, workplaces, and the health care system.”
Even interventions that can modestly increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour would improve the health of Canadians significantly. By simply getting 10 per cent of Canadians who currently have suboptimal levels of physical activity to sit less and move more, it would reduce the number of cases of heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes—and could result in cost-savings of $2.6 billion to the health care system and a $7.5 billion boost to the Canadian gross domestic product (GDP), by 2040.
Canada has done well on the health promotion front through organizations such as ParticipACTION, as well as producing guidelines for physical activity and sedentary behaviour and promoting physical activity for children and youth.
Nevertheless many Canadians are still largely dependent on automobiles for personal transportation, spend much of their waking time sitting, and children are spending more time in front of a screen.
Examples of effective interventions include sit-stand workstations in offices, access to green open spaces, time for recreational physical activity in schools, and community walking and bike paths.
Based on a review of the literature in the study, the most effective and scalable interventions to reduce physical inactivity involve:
- teaching individuals self-regulatory strategies (such as planning and self-monitoring),
- exposing them to positive physical activity experiences, and
- creating activity-friendly environments through smart and supportive policies.
John C. Spence is a Professor and principal investigator in the Sedentary Living Laboratory in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta and chair of the research advisory group for ParticipACTION. Thy Dinh is Associate Director, Health Economics at the Conference Board.
The "Moving Ahead: Healthy Active Living in Canada” research series, led by the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC) is examining cost-effective, scalable and sustainable interventions that promote and improve healthy active living. Future publications in the series will address other healthy active living factors, including sleep, nutrition, smoking, and alcohol consumption. The series will culminate in recommendations for all Canadians to move forward on the healthy active living agenda.