Physical activity should be policy priority
A recently released Alberta government survey has confirmed what has become common knowledge in recent years – that not enough Albertans are being physically active in their day-to-day lives and that, in turn, is putting their health and well-being at risk.
According to the Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation survey, less than 85 per cent of Albertans reported being involved in some form of sport and recreation in 2011-2012.
The participation rate is lower than in 2010-2011, with the drop seen across all age groups. In particular the downturn has been steepest among women and young adults aged 18 to 24.
“The objectively measured data is really quite grim," said Tanya Berry, a professor with the University of Alberta's faculty of physical education and recreation.
"People have a hard time getting motivated. There is that subset that love being active, but for the most part, it's a struggle for people."
The survey’s respondents said the most common reason for not being physically active is a lack of free time.
The Alberta study comes on the heels of another Statistics Canada study that found 85 per cent of Canadian adults fail to meet the recommended target of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
That study also found that Canadian adults on average are sedentary for more than nine hours a day – and that’s on top of sleeping hours.
While being physically active is a matter of choice, as it should be, the fact that more and more Albertans are choosing “sedentary” lifestyles is something that should be of concern to all the levels of government.
In particular, since regular physical activity has been linked time and time again to good health, the more that can be done to promote active lifestyles the better. On the other hand, inactive Albertans are residents at risks, and that is bad for Alberta.
Every healthy resident is one less person putting pressure on the health-care system, leaving scarce and expensive health resources available to treat the sick and injured.
Of course residents themselves must make the choice to be active, taking part in sports and other physical activities as part of their everyday lives.
At the same time, the various levels of government, including right here in West Central Alberta, should be encouraged to make sure recreation activities are affordable and available for every resident.
Reversing the downward trend of physical activity among Alberta residents should become a public policy priority – after all, public money spent on making Albertans healthy is always money well spent.