Physical activity levels of Canadian adults, 2007 to 2009

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About 15% of Canadian adults meet new physical activity guidelines, with a larger proportion of men (17%) meeting the guidelines than women (14%). The majority spend most of their waking hours in sedentary pursuits.

What are the new physical activity level guidelines?

World Health Organization and Canadian guidelines recommend the following:

  • To achieve health benefits, adults aged 18 and older should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

Many adults are not meeting the guidelines

Just over 15% of Canadian adults meet new physical activity guidelines. There is some evidence that suggests physical activity should be spread across several days. To explore this, the proportion of adults spreading 150 minutes across the week by accumulating at least 30 minutes on at least 5 days of the week was calculated. This analysis showed that 5% of Canadian adults are accumulating their 150 minutes on a regular basis.

Overall, about one-half (53%) of adults accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) one or more days a week, but this means that almost as many (47%) do so less than one day a week.

Adults spend an average of 9.5 hours a day in sedentary pursuits, or approximately 69% of their waking hours.

Men more active than women

At ages 20 to 39, men engage in more MVPA than do women (33 minutes a day for men compared to 24 minutes for women). A sex difference is not evident among adults aged 40 to 79 years.

Chart 1
Average daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by age group

Description

Chart 1 Average daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by age group

† reference category
* significantly different from estimate for women (p<0.05)
‡ significantly different from estimate for reference category (p<0.05)
Source: Canadian Health Measures Survey, 2007 to 2009

Physical activity is lower in obese individuals

On average, obese men and women accumulate significantly fewer minutes of MVPA a day than their healthy weight counterparts (19 minutes a day for obese men and 13 minutes for obese women).

Chart 2
Average daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by BMI category

Description

Chart 2 Average daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by BMI category

† reference category
* significantly different from estimate for women (p<0.05)
‡ significantly different from estimate for reference category (p<0.05)
Source: Canadian Health Measures Survey, 2007 to 2009.

One-third of Canadian adults meet 10,000 daily step-count target

In Canada, men average about 9,500 steps a day, compared with 8,400 for women. These figures are close to the results of the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which found that American adults average about 9,700 steps per day.

Roughly one-third (35%) of men and women achieve the well-known pedometer target of 10,000 steps a day. Older adults are less likely to meet this step count target.

This daily average for Canadians is significantly lower at ages 60 to 79 (7,900 steps for men and 7,000 steps for women). Obese men and women accumulate significantly fewer steps per day than do adults with a healthy weight.

Background and further information

The new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines in this fact sheet are presented by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) used activity monitors to collect objective measures of physical activity and sedentary behaviour for a nationally representative sample of Canadians aged 6 to 79 from 2007 to 2009.

Some examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, cleaning (id est vacuuming, washing car), or bike riding for pleasure. Examples of vigorous physical activity include jogging, swimming laps, or competitive team sport participation.

Regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of various health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, stress and anxiety.

More detailed analyses on the physical activity of Canadians are available in the articles, "Physical activity of Canadian adults: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey " and "Physical activity of Canadian children and youth: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey" in Health Reports, Vol. 22, no.1.

Additional physical health measures information from the Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007 to 2009 is available at www.statcan.gc.ca/chms and from the Statistics Canada health module.
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