The fitness levels of Canadian adults declined substantially between 1981 and the years 2007 to 2009, suggesting a reduction in population health. This paper updates the fitness trends of Canadians aged 20 to 69 years by extending the time period to 2017
Data and methods
The Canadian Health Measures Survey is a repeated cross-sectional survey that is conducted to produce nationally representative health estimates. Descriptive statistics are presented for fitness measures in 2016 and 2017 by age and sex, and trends in fitness were calculated spanning a period of 10 years (2007 to 2017). The associations between fitness measures and meeting the 2020 Canadian physical activity recommendations were also assessed.
From 2007 to 2017, there were few statistically significant changes in the fitness levels of Canadian adults. When all ages were combined, there were declining trends in predicted cardiorespiratory fitness, from 39.5 to 36.7 mL•kg-1•min-1 among men and 34.0 to 32.2 mL•kg-1•min-1 among women. Trends indicated declining flexibility among men. In general, meeting the current Canadian moderate-to-vigorous physical activity recommendation was associated with better fitness, particularly in the categories of predicted cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition.
The periodic assessment of fitness in Canadians provides valuable insight into population health. The present update provides evidence that fitness levels among adults have generally stabilized over the past 10 years. Taken with the reported declines in fitness that occurred from 1981 to the 2007-to-2009 period, this study shows that the fitness of Canadian adults remained low between 2007 to 2009 and 2016 to 2017. It is necessary to explore new ways to help improve the fitness levels of the Canadian population.
Mark S. Tremblay
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute