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Inactivity Measured a $6.8 Billion Epidemic In Canada


Queen’s University released a report that states inactivity cost $6.8 billion in Health Care costs.

Health Canada may have recently assigned a failing grade to Canadian youths for physical activity, but the numbers for adults aren’t much better. Statistics Canada estimates that 85 percent of Canadian adults don’t meet the requirements of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) guidelines for physical activity.

What are the costs of our inactive lifestyles? In what Ian Janssen, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity at Queens University, refers to as “surpass[ing] epidemic proportions,” the costs of our physical inactivity is in the billions.

According to a new report published yesterday by Queen’s University, the total health care costs for physical inactivity in Canada for 2009 was $6.8 billion.

With our evolving technology-centred lifestyles, these numbers shouldn’t come as much surprise.

While the amount of time a typical Canadian spends in front of the television (an average of 2 hours 52 minutes per day) has stayed relatively consistent since 1998, computer use (now 1 hour 23 minutes) increased nearly five-fold between 1998 and 2010. The amount of time playing video games also increased dramatically from 1 hour 48 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes per day.

It’s time to get active

Numerous reports have cited the need for better-informed public policy that aims to educate Canadians about the dangers of physical inactivity. But in the meantime, Canadians can take some initiative.

According to the PHAC website, Canadian adults aged 18 to 64 should accumulate a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous- intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity requires that we breathe harder and our heart rate increases. Think brisk walking, skating, or bike riding. Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise should make our heart rate increase significantly and leave you out of breath. This could include running, sports, or jump rope.

The site also recommends adding muscle- and bone-strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least two days per week. This can include push-ups and sit-ups, lifting weights, climbing stairs, or even digging in the garden for muscle strengthening. Bone strengthening activities include running, walking, and yoga.


The PHAC provides a list of health benefits to incorporating physical activity into our daily routines:

  • “Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of premature death and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, type-2 diabetes and osteoporosis.”
  • “Regular physical activity can improve your overall sense of well being by improving fitness levels and self esteem, reducing the effects of stress, increasing energy and contributing to positive mental health.”
  • “If you’re not active now, adding any amount of physical activity can bring some health benefits.”

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada “Physical Activity Tips for Adults (18-64 years)”  

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