Fitness in Canada is on a Decline?

According to new research released by Statistics Canada, Canadians are not only getting heavier, but their fitness levels have declined over the past thirty years as well.  The results of the Canadian Health Measures survey were recently released shedding light on bulging waistlines and declining fitness levels among Canadians.

The recent survey data from Health Canada is based on 3102 examination participants who ranged in ages from 20 to 69 years of age.  The participants were recruited between March 2007 and February 2009 from 15 sites across Canada.

Previous studies had primarily looked at body mass index (BMI) as a proxy for overall fitness levels since it’s relatively easy to measure.  In contrast, this study incorporated several aspects of fitness including muscular fitness, morphological measures, motor fitness (speed, agility), cardiorespiratory fitness, and metabolic fitness (blood lipid profile, glucose tolerance).

The study emphasizes the importance of the health benefits of other aspects of fitness (other than BMI) with aerobic fitness being protective against  diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality independent of BMI or physical activity levels.  As well, musculoskeletal fitness confers health benefits particularly among women and the elderly including better quality of life, lower risk of falls, and decreased mortality.

In terms of comparisons made to historical data from 1981, the study found that mean values for  BMI, waist circumference, and skin fold measurements were higher for both sexes in all age groups.  What’s more is that the survey found that flexibility declined for both sexes aged 20-39 and for males aged 60-69 years.  Muscular strength also declined for both sexes aged 20-59 years.

For body composition, the survey found that 37% of Canadian adults are overweight while 24% are obese.  On average though, the BMI of Canadians was lower than that of Americans.  40% of adult Canadian men and 47% of women had an aerobic fitness rating that was rated as either “fair” or “needs improvement.”

One age group of particular concern were those between the ages of 20-39 with their percentage of waist circumferences placing them at high risk for health problems having quadrupled.

If the data from this survey has you feeling more than a little concerned, think of it as the canary in the coal mine.  For the measures of Canadian fitness as individuals within a nation, all of the arrows are starting to point in the wrong direction.  We as individuals have to splash some cold water on our faces and start taking ownership of our own health and fitness issues.

Less time watching TV and posting updates on Facebook and more time staying active…

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