Feb. 18, 2021

Organizations, experts address increased physical inactivity during pandemic

Change for Good Health seeks to make it easier for Canadians to access exercise for their health

A group of Canadian businesses, community organizations, nongovernmental organizations, researchers and healthcare experts are working together to examine how the pandemic is contributing to unhealthy lifestyles and consider ways to make physical activity available to more people in Canada, especially marginalized communities and vulnerable populations.

Championed by David ‘Patch’ Patchell-Evans, a physical fitness pioneer in Canada and the founder and CEO of GoodLife Fitness and Fit4Less, the Change for Good Health project is intended to address the health impacts of inactivity, as well as longstanding inequities when it comes to accessing physical activity. Patch is working with Toronto-based social good consultants impakt, to convene a group of experts to co-create potential solutions to the heightened risks of inactivity exposed by the pandemic, leveraging existing research and programs.

“I believe that fitness should be a right for everyone living in Canada, but to make that a reality, we have to give everyone the opportunity to be physically active, particularly those who face significant barriers in the first place. It should just be part of living here, like going to school or seeing a doctor,” said Patchell-Evans. “We know most people aren’t active enough, and the pandemic has really brought this health issue to the forefront. It will take a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to help more people get moving for their mental and physical health. We need diverse perspectives and expertise to find the best way forward.”

Before the pandemic, only about one in five Canadians (of any age) were getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Remote work, home-schooling, shelter in place measures and the closure of fitness, recreation and sport facilities and programs are contributing to more sedentary behaviour.

On top of that, anxiety and depression have risen dramatically. Canadians are reporting their highest levels of anxiety (23%) and depression (15%) – above the levels at the peak of COVID’s first wave.

There is mounting evidence that the lack of access to physical activity and recreation opportunities has put more people than ever at risk of lowered immunity, heart disease, obesity, substance abuse and increased stress and loneliness. Those risks can be even greater for people in vulnerable communities who may also be experiencing lower income, precarious home or work situations, marginalization or other conditions that threaten access to good health outcomes.

Change for Good Health will gather a diverse group of stakeholders from healthcare, academia, sport and recreation, and non-governmental organizations to take part in a series of roundtable discussions focusing on ways to collaborate and innovate to create more opportunities to be active, especially for people who need it most.

Other organizations taking part in Change for Good Health include Abilities Centre, Bootcamps for Change, Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, Canadian Tire Jump Start Charities, Canadian Women & Sport, canfitpro, Diabetes Canada, Exercise is Medicine Canada, Global Wellness Institute, GoodLife Kids Foundation, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Jays Care Foundation, MLSE LaunchPad, Right To Play, Unsinkable, and YMCA.

Academic and medical experts participating in the round tables include Dr. Gordon Asmundson (psychology, University of Regina), Dr. Paul Oh (cardiology, University Health Network), Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed (kinesiology, University of Calgary) and Dr. Iris Lesser, (kinesiology, University of Fraser Valley), Dr. Bruce Kidd (kinesiology, University of Toronto), among others.

Participants will share their expertise and ideas at three Change for Good Health online roundtable discussions this month.

1. Fitness as a right, health equity. Making the case for opportunities to be physically active as a basic right and necessity, during and after the pandemic.

2. The impact of physical inactivity on mental, emotional, and social health.

3. Addressing the health and wellness of children and families through physical activity.

Participant insights and ideas will inform a discussion document and recommendations, as well as a preliminary roadmap for the future to bring opportunities for physical activity to more people in Canada.

Find out more about Change for Good Health.

For more information, please contact Holly Dunn 782-640-1646, mediarelations@goodlifefitness.com