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Fitness of Canadian adults: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

by Margot Shields, Mark S. Tremblay, Manon Laviolette, Cora L. Craig, Ian Janssen and Sarah Connor Gorber

Abstract
Keywords
Findings
Authors
What is already known on this subject?
What does this study add?

Abstract

Background

Estimates of obesity, based on body mass index (BMI) reveal that Canadian adults have become heavier over the past quarter century.  However, a comprehensive assessment of fitness requires additional measures.  This article provides up-to-date estimates of fitness levels of Canadians aged 20 to 69 years.  Results are compared with estimates from 1981.

Data source and methods

Data are from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS).  Historical estimates are from the 1981 Canada Fitness Survey.  Means, medians and cross-tabulations were used to compare fitness levels by sex and age group and between survey years.

Results

Mean scores for aerobic fitness, flexibility, muscular endurance and muscular strength declined at older ages, and BMI, waist circumference, skinfold measurements and waist-to-hip ratio increased.  Males had higher scores than females for aerobic fitness, muscular endurance and muscular strength; females had higher scores for flexibility.  Muscular strength and flexibility decreased between 1981 and 2007-2009; BMI, waist circumference and skinfold measurements increased.

Interpretation

Based on results of the fitness tests and anthropometric measurements, many Canadian adults face health risks due to suboptimal fitness levels.

Keywords

anthropometry, body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness, flexibility, muscular endurance, musculoskeletal fitness, obesity, physical fitness, strength

Findings

The health benefits of being physically fit are widely acknowledged. Physical fitness comprises several components including morphological fitness (for example, body mass index, waist circumference, percent body fat, body fat distribution), muscular fitness (for example, strength, muscular endurance, flexibility), motor fitness (for example, speed, agility), cardiorespiratory fitness (for example, aerobic fitness, resting blood pressure, resting heart rate), and metabolic fitness (for example, blood lipid profile, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity). The new Canadian Health Measures Survey was designed to collect data about most of these elements of fitness from a representative sample of Canadians aged 6 to 79 years.[Full text]

Authors

Margot Shields (613-951-4177; Margot.Shields@statcan.gc.ca) and Sarah Connor Gorber are with the Health Analysis Division  and Manon Laviolette is with the Physical Health Measures Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0T6.  Mark S. Tremblay is with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa Ontario.  Cora L. Craig is with the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario.  Ian Janssen is with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

What is already known on this subject?

  • Estimates of obesity based on body mass index (BMI) reveal that Canadian adults have become heavier over the past 25 years.
  • Excess abdominal fat and elevated skinfold measurements are associated with adverse health outcomes, independent of BMI..
  • Aerobic fitness is protective against disease, independent of BMI, and musculoskeletal fitness confers considerable health benefits, particularly at older ages.

What does this study add?

  • The 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey provides objective data on fitness levels of the Canadian population for the first time in more than two decades.
  • Mean scores for aerobic and musculoskeletal fitness were lower with advancing age in both sexes, while BMI, waist circumference and skinfold measurements rose at older ages.
  • At ages 40 to 69 years, the percentage of males and females whose waist circumference placed them at a high risk for health problems more than doubled between 1981 and 2007-2009; at ages 20 to 39 years, percentages more than quadrupled.
  • Between 1981 and 2007-2009, the percentage of Canadians aged 40 to 69 years categorized as fair or needing improvement according to their body composition (BMI, waist circumference and skinfold measurements) more than doubled. Among males aged 20 to 39 years, the increase was fourfold, and among younger females, sevenfold.
  • The percentage of males and females with suboptimal health benefit ratings for muscular strength increased between 1981 and 2007-2009.