Why a Physical Activity Strategy is Needed

Purpose

Physical inactivity is now identified by the World Health Organization as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Physical inactivity levels are increasing in many countries with major implications for the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the general health of the population worldwide.

Eighty-five percent of adults and 93% of children and youth are not meeting Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

These levels of physical inactivity have enormous societal costs. There is a need to increase physical activity levels in Canada, and there is compelling evidence that by doing so we can realize significant benefits (See Appendix A). Studies also show that reducing the sedentary time of children and youth is associated with improvements in body composition, fitness, self-esteem and self-worth.

Recent data from the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute indicates that over the past decade little or no progress has been made in Canada toward increasing the physical activity levels of children/youth or adults. In addition, strategies that address physical activity and sedentary living for populations with the greatest need and access issues are lacking. Nationally these populations include: Aboriginal people, children and youth, people with disabilities, newcomers, girls and women, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered), lower socioeconomic groups and older adults. Clearly a new, more comprehensive approach is required if we are to meet 2015 targets for Canada (See Appendix B).

Despite the fact that Canada has examples of programs, research, community interventions and education campaigns that are respected world-wide; and despite some strong provincial, territorial, and municipal/local efforts to encourage people to be more active; Canada’s approach to increasing physical activity has been fragmented. As a result, these individual efforts have lacked the coordination and strategic approach needed for population-wide interventions that link evidence to action. They have, therefore, failed to produce meaningful national results. It is time to move beyond uncoordinated efforts to become a country of strategic action.

Active Canada 20/20 was developed by knowledgeable people from across Canada concerned about physical activity, health and quality of life. Over 1700 stakeholders have participated in, and contributed to, the consultation process about this agenda for change. Consensus has been reached on a set of actions designed to reverse the decline in population physical activity levels that have taken place over the generations; actions we can take together to create a culture of an active nation (See Development of AC 20/20).

Active Canada 20/20:

  • Provides a vision for an active Canada;
  • Establishes measurable goals for the nation;
  • Identifies actions based on evidence;
  • Focuses on priority actions and needed investments;
  • Builds on current strengths;
  • Identifies strategies to address gaps; and,
  • Provides focus and opportunity for coordinated action.