3. Objectives

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This report is an update of the 1998 report entitled Sport Participation in Canada prepared by Statistics Canada for Sport Canada.3 Some studies (e.g., releases by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute4) include sport in a broader context of physical activities such as brisk walking, jogging, dancing, and other forms of exercise. Sport as used in this report excludes a number of physical and leisure activities such as aerobics, dancing, bicycling for recreation or transportation, body building, car racing, fishing, jogging and walking.

The report analyzes trend data where possible using the 1992, 1998, and 2005 sport supplements to the General Social Survey (GSS). These data provide vital information on the magnitude of, and changes in, sport participation in Canada.

The main objective of this paper is to improve our knowledge of sport participation in Canada by examining the following in detail:

  • participation in sport by socio-demographic factors (e.g., age, mother tongue, gender, household type, education, household income, occupation, and type of employment)
  • Canadian born and immigrants both recent and those who came to Canada before 1990
  • Canadians who are directly involved in sport as participants
  • Canadians who are indirectly involved through coaching, refereeing, officiating or being a spectator at amateur sporting events
  • participation in competitive sport
  • benefits from participation
  • barriers to participation
  • the relationship between general social indicators and sport participation (e.g., health, social and community contact and time use including leisure time)

3.1 Definition of sport

The General Social Survey determined each respondent's involvement in sport by asking the question:

"Did you regularly participate in any sports during the past 12 months?"

"Regularly" meant that the respondent participated in a sport at least once a week during the season or for a certain period of the year. For example, although bowling is not a seasonal sport, the respondent was to include bowling if it was played on a regular basis during a period of the year.

Guidelines for determining whether a physical activity fell within scope as a 'sport' were determined by Sport Canada. Specifically, a sport is an activity that involves two or more participants engaging for the purpose of competition. Sport involves formal rules and procedures, requires tactics and strategies, specialized neuromuscular skills and a high degree of difficulty and effort. The competitive nature of sport implies the development of trained coaching personnel. It does not include activities in which the performance of a motorized vehicle is the primary determinant of the competitive outcome.

Based on these general guidelines, a list of sports was provided by Sport Canada. A number of physical and leisure activities were excluded such as non-competitive aerobics, aqua-fitness, bicycling for recreation/transportation only, body building/body sculpting, car racing, dancing, fishing, fitness classes, hiking, jogging, lifting weights (non-competitive), motorcycling, snowmobiling, and non-competitive walking. Details about the GSS survey design, the survey questions, and a list of sports included and those excluded are all contained in Appendix 1.

3.2 Calculation of rates

Participation rates can be calculated in a number of different ways. The participation rates in most of the tables in the report use the total Canadian population aged 15 years and older as the denominator. Participation rates were also calculated using the total number of males 15 years and older and total females 15 years and older as denominators. This allows one to view the proportion of sport participants within the total population, as well as within the male and female populations.

A second set of percentages were calculated using the population that actively participates in sport as the base (denominator), thus giving us a rate of 'active Canadians'. This allows for comparisons within the active population. Footnotes at the end of each table indicate which sub-population was used in the calculation of the rates.