What are the latest facts about physical activity levels for Canadians of old enough to be in the workforce?

The most recent data about physical activity levels in Canada underscore the need for more improvement, as almost half of Canadians still remain not active enough to achieve or maintain health benefits.

Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey examines physical activity levels in Canada every two years. The results of the most recent survey show that:

  • Slightly over half of adults aged 20 and older are inactive, an improvement compared to 62% in 1994-95
  • Physical inactivity levels generally worsen as we move from west to east
  • By province, physical inactivity levels for Canadians aged 12 and over are:
    Yukon 38%
    Northwest Territories 42%
    Nunavut 60%
    British Columbia 39%
    Alberta 43%
    Saskatchewan 48%
    Manitoba 47%
    Ontario 47%
    Quebec 51%
    Nova Scotia 50%
    New Brunswick 52%
    Newfoundland 53%
    Prince Edward Island 53%
  • More women (50%) than men (44%) are inactive
  • Physical inactivity increases with age
  • Substantial inroads were made at reducing physical inactivity levels between 1981 and 2003, but much still remains to be done

Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living recommends that to achieve health benefits, adults need to accumulate 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, preferably every day.

The Guide also indicates that there should be a mix of endurance activities (those that work the heart and lungs), flexibility activities (bending, stretching to keep muscles relaxed and joints mobile) and strength activities (those that strengthen muscles and bones plus improve posture).

Rates of obesity and overweight have been increasing steadily over the last 20 years:

  • According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, by 2003, 15% of adult Canadians were considered obese and 33% were considered overweight. An estimated 47% were in the normal range, and about 3% were underweight.
  • About 16% of adult men were considered obese, slightly higher than the rate of 14% among adult women. Rates of obesity were highest in the 45 to 64 age group.

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