We are facing a real challenge in our country – a crisis of inactivity

By Nancy Greene Raine

Today, only seven per cent of children and fifteen per cent of adults are achieving the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week needed to maintain physical health.

Like an unpaid bill that prompts interest charges, debt collectors, and a damaged credit rating, the issue of inactivity will only get worse the longer it is ignored.

While inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are harmful to Canadians of all ages, the issue is even more pressing for our aging population.

I was very fortunate to have parents who made sure I was active and ignited a passion for skiing that led me to Olympic gold, and more importantly, to an active lifestyle.

Without a change in Canadian fitness levels, both children and adults will suffer declining health years earlier than otherwise could have been the case. Studies have shown that regular exercise adds four and a half years to an individual’s life.

Not only will an active lifestyle add years to your life, it will improve the quality of your life.

Consider for a moment the many joys in life that may be missed by someone who has lived a life of inactivity – going for a swim with friends, hiking with a loved-one on one of Canada’s many beautiful trails, and even the simple act of playing with your children.

For millions of sedentary Canadians, a long, rich, and active life will be replaced with a needlessly shorter one – plagued by missed opportunities and chronic pain.

Given the seriousness of the inactivity problem Canada is facing, I felt it my responsibility as a parliamentarian to promote health and fitness to my fellow Canadians. That is why I got involved, when approached by former MP John Weston, with the National Health and Fitness initiative.

National Health & Fitness Day, the first Saturday in June every year, now marks a national, grassroots effort to increase the health and fitness of Canadians, and strives towards making Canada the fittest nation on earth – an ambitious goal given our current standing at 24th in a study of the youth physical activity levels of 38 countries.

Since its inception in 2011 National Health and Fitness Day continues to grow – with over 270 communities across the country currently marking the day.

Some may hear of this initiative and think to themselves, “There’s no way the federal government can make Canada the fittest nation on earth”, and they would be correct.

This is not about a federal government program or policy.  For us to achieve this goal we need the engagement of every community across Canada – as well as the individuals that make up these communities.

For this reason, I will leave you with a call to action – on June 3rd, commit to doing something active. Go to your local rec centre, play sports with your friends, go for a walk or bike ride. Do anything, so long as it gets your body moving – you don’t have to be an Olympian to stay fit.

I recognize that the goal of making Canada the fittest nation on earth is ambitious, but I also recognize that it is achievable – and it all starts with you and me.

For more information about National Health and Fitness Day please visit our website: www.NHFDcan.ca