Surveillance of physical activity among Canadian adults has typically relied on questionnaire-based data, which have many limitations. The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) has been collecting objective, accelerometer-based physical activity data on a nationally representative sample of Canadian adults since 2007.


Data are from Cycle 1 (2007 to 2009), Cycle 2 (2009 to 2011), Cycle 3 (2012 to 2013), Cycle 4 (2014 to 2015) and Cycle 5 (2016 to 2017) of the CHMS. The study sample included adults aged 18 to 79 years (Cycle 1: n = 2,952; Cycle 2: n = 2,959; Cycle 3: n = 2,517; Cycle 4: n = 2,390; Cycle 5: n = 2,355). Average daily minutes of moderate physical activity (MPA), vigorous physical activity (VPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPAALL) were derived from minute-by-minute accelerometer data captured over seven consecutive days. MVPA accumulated in bouts of at least 10 minutes (MVPABOUTS) were also calculated, and adherence to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines was assessed.


No significant linear trend was observed in accelerometer-measured MVPA from 2007 to 2017. According to the most recent cycle of CHMS data (2016 and 2017), Canadian adults accumulated an average of 26 minutes of MVPAALL per day, less than half of which (12 minutes per day, on average) was accumulated in bouts of at least 10 minutes. Average daily VPA was less than five minutes. About 3% of Canadian adults accumulated no MVPA at all, while approximately 36% did not accumulate any MVPA in bouts of at least 10 minutes; 16% of Canadian adults met the current physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of MVPA per week in bouts of at least 10 minutes.


These results may be important to governments and other organizations for initiatives geared toward increasing physical activity levels in Canadian adults.


physical activity; accelerometry; guidelines; surveillance

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.25318/82-003-x201900800001-eng


Physical inactivity is associated with an increased risk of several chronic diseases and premature mortality. It is estimated that physical inactivity is responsible for 3.7% of total direct and indirect health care costs in Canada ($6.8 billion/year). The current Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per week in bouts of at least 10 minutes, in addition to engaging in muscle and bone strengthening activities at least twice a week. Before accelerometers were adopted for use in the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) in 2007, physical activity prevalence and trend data in Canada were assessed using self-reported and pedometer-measured data only. [Full article]


Janine Clarke (janine.clarke@canada.ca) is with the Centre for Population Health Data and Rachel Colley is with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Ian Janssen is with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Mark S. Tremblay is with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • Recent reports based on self-reported data suggested that nearly two-thirds of Canadian adults were meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines; by contrast, accelerometer-based data from 2007 to 2009 indicated that less than one-fifth of Canadian adults were meeting the guidelines.
  • When based on self-reported data, assessments of trends in physical activity levels over time have been inconsistent; some have suggested that physical activity has increased, while others have suggested that it has remained stable in recent decades.
  • Self-reported questionnaire data are limited since they do not typically capture information on physical activity accumulated in shorter periods (sporadic or incidental activity); recent evidence suggests that physical activity accumulated in shorter periods can have an equivalent health benefit to physical activity accumulated in longer periods (or bouts).
  • The availability of several cycles of accelerometer-based data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2007 to 2017) provides an opportunity to assess recent physical activity trends and to evaluate physical activity accumulated in both shorter and longer bouts.

What does this study add?

  • Physical activity in Canadian adults, as measured by an accelerometer, has remained low and stable between 2007 and 2017.
  • Canadian adults accumulate the majority of their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at a moderate intensity and in bouts of less than 10 minutes at a time.
  • These results may be important to governments and other organizations for initiatives geared toward increasing physical activity levels in Canadian adults

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