canada physical activity

Canadian adults aren't getting nearly enough physical activity

Only 16 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 79 are currently meeting national health guidelines when it comes to how much moderate-to-vigorous physical activity they get each week, according to a new report from a federal government-funded non-profit agency.

ParticipACTION — they of the cheesy Body Break commercial fame — just released their first-ever "Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults."

We did not, as a country, fare well.

Collectively, Canadian adults got a "D" grade on the report card in its inaugural year, thanks in large part to how little we move.

Nearly an entire third of the country's adult population (29 per cent) falls within what ParticipACTION calls "the low active lifestyle category," meaning that they take less than 7,500 steps per day. Another 18 per cent of adults take less than 5,000 steps per day, rendering them "sedentary" in the eyes of federal statisticians.

On average, adults aged 18 - 79 were found to be sedentary for nearly 10 hours a day (excluding sleep time) with older people spending the most time immobile — but not by much.

Canadians aged 18 to 34 were found to be sedentary for an average of 9.5 hours per day across the country, while those in the 65-79 range averaged around 10.1 hours. Adults between the ages of 35 and 49 scored the best with an average sedentary time of 9.4 hours per day.

Overall, approximately 86 per cent of all adults in Canada are currently sedentary for more than 8 hours a day, which can prove problematic, even for those who get enough physical activity through exercise.

sedentary behaviours canada

Nearly 80 per cent of all Canadians between 18 and 64 spend at least four hours of time away from work sitting in front of a screen. Image via ParticipACTION.

"In contrast to the many health benefits achieved through a physically active lifestyle, being sedentary for extended periods of time (e.g., sitting while watching television or using a computer) can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, some cancers, pulmonary disease [and] all-cause mortality," reads the report card.

"The risks of a sedentary lifestyle among older adults are similar as those of young adults. However, there are additional conditions that are more relevant to older adults, including physical and cognitive impairments, frailty, social isolation, poor mental health, incontinence, disablement and problems with sleep."

While our overall grade on the report card was a "D", Canada did score better (and worse) in some areas than others.

Canada got a "C" in the category of "Daily Movement," for example, with more than half of Canadian adults (52 per cent) taking at least 7,500 steps per day.

We scored an "F" in the category of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, however, with just 16 per cent getting at least 150 minutes of it weekly, as Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines dictate we should.

Our highest score was a "B+" in the category of "intentions" thanks to some 74 per cent of adults stating that they "have strong intentions to be physically active within the next 6 months."

"Intention, or the willingness to invest effort in a particular behaviour, is considered to be an important link between cognition and behaviour," reads the report.

"The relationship between intention and behaviour specifically has shown a positive link between intention and physical activity behaviour."

I suppose we'll see how true that is when next year's report card drops.

Lead photo by

Jae Yang


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