Researchers find more than a third of survey participants are considered unhealthy
Sedentary Canadians are not making the grade on fitness, according to a report from a group of federal, provincial and territorial governments and non-profit agencies.
Sixty-four per cent of the 1,000 respondents to ParticipAction Canada’s 2018 inactivity survey were considered sedentary, experts say. That was down 3 percentage points from the 2017 survey, but still far above the Canadian average of 30%.
Researchers found more than a third of respondents didn’t hit activity levels below levels the government recommends.
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“We find that Canadians continue to achieve sedentary activity levels well below healthy activity levels,” said May McGarrigle, a senior policy analyst with ParticipAction.
The government should ensure programs are delivered in a way that encourages Canadians to remain active, he said.
Pregnant women and older adults are especially vulnerable to high rates of inactivity, as well as parents who are not active with their children.
“There is a lot of evidence that there are benefits to being physically active during pregnancy,” McGarrigle said. “If there is not a safe, active dose in pregnancy, then that’s very concerning because mothers-to-be have a very important role in controlling their baby’s overall health.”
Kirsten Allum, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said the agency sees the high rates of sedentary behaviour as an “urgent and ongoing” problem.
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The agency’s long-term sedentary behaviour indicator surveys participants on their capacity to move. The most recent survey found 35% of people had similar health as sedentary women. There were also higher levels of inactive men, with 47% of men meeting the healthy inactivity measure.
“Being sedentary is not healthy and certainly is not something we want Canadians to be living in their lives,” Allum said.
On Monday, four provinces and three territories joined the private sector to announce its annual OptOutside partnership, which helps give community groups the resources they need to offer free activities like biking trails and walking clubs.
Canadian programmes are part of the alliance, which also includes cities, the federal government and the health ministry. Partners are working to add space for activities and be more open to incorporating arts and culture, as well as indoor activities like fitness centres, according to the body’s website.
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McGarrigle said the federal government has reduced some funding for programs over the past two years to increase funding from the provinces and territories.
He said the researchers who conducted the survey were reviewing the results to ensure they’re fact-based and help make policy decisions. McGarrigle said ParticipAction will continue to conduct the surveys.
“What we’re doing is showing that there’s a large number of Canadians that are unfit and the problem is growing,” he said. “That’s an important indicator of the size of the problem.”
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