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Study: Physically active Canadians

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The Daily

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A rising percentage of Canadians have become at least moderately active in their leisure time during the past decade.

Even so, a new study shows that almost one-half (48%) of the population aged 12 or older, some 12.7 million people, were classified as "inactive" during their leisure time in 2005, meaning that they did the equivalent of less than half an hour of walking each day.

As well, 25% of Canadians, or 6.6 million, reported that they usually sat most of the day. And during a typical week, 41% of Canadians, or 10.8 million, spent less than one hour walking to get to school or work or to do errands.

The study, published today in Health Reports, found that 52% of Canadians aged 12 or older reported that they were at least moderately active in 2005, up from 43% in 1996.

Activity levels outside of leisure time also increased. For example, the proportion of people who spent at least six hours a week walking or bicycling as a means of daily transportation climbed to 24% in 2005 from 19% in 1996.

The study, which analyzed data from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey, found that age, sex and level of income were among the factors that influenced an individual's level of physical activity.

For instance, in 2005, a higher percentage of men than women reported at least moderately active leisure time (the equivalent of walking 30 to 60 minutes a day, or taking an hour-long exercise class three times a week).

In 2005, young people were the most active, with 58% of males and 44% of females aged 12 to 17 reporting levels of leisure-time activity comparable to walking an hour a day or jogging 20 minutes a day. By comparison, 24% of men and 23% of women aged 35 to 44 reported similar levels of activity.

Individuals in higher income groups were more likely to engage in physical activity in their leisure time. Immigrants, regardless of how long they had been in Canada, were less likely to be at least moderately active in their leisure time than were Canadians overall.

Canadians who were active in their leisure time were more likely to rate their health excellent or very good. They also reported lower levels of stress, were less likely to report high blood pressure, and were less likely to be overweight or obese than those reporting lower levels of activity.

At a provincial and territorial level, residents of British Columbia were the most active, with 59% being at least moderately active in their leisure time, followed by Yukon (58%) and Alberta (54%).

Residents of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest proportions of this level of activity, at 44% and 46% respectively.

Residents of Canada's largest cities—those with populations of 2 million or more—generally reported lower levels of physical activity than those in smaller cities and less populated areas.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3226.

The study "Physically activie Canadians", which is part of today's Health Reports online release (82-003-XWE, free), is now available from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Heather Gilmour (613-951-2114;, Health Information and Research Division.

The complete version of the latest issue of Health Reports, Vol. 18, No. 3 (82-003-XWE, free) is now available. A paper copy (82-003-XPE, $22/$63) is also available.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Christine Wright (613-951-1765;, Health Information and Research Division.