An Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Honourable Carla Qualtrough
From: Fitness Industry Council of Canada
Fitness Industry Council of Canada, the voice of the Canadian fitness industry, wishes to extend its welcome to The Honorable Carla Qualtrough, as the newly appointed Minister of Sport and Physical Activity. We are confident her past experience as Minister of Sport, her life experience as a Paralympian, and her deep understanding of diversity and inclusion will provide Canadians with inspiring and meaningful leadership in this role.
Prime Minister Trudeau, we have watched you perform yoga poses on world stages, we know you understand how essential physical activity is for your own health and well-being. Minister Qualtrough, we are confident in your dedication and commitment to improve the physical and mental health of all Canadians.
As the voice of the Canadian Fitness Industry, we are excited to work together to improve the lives of Canadians, and we hope that rebranding the Ministry as “Sport and Physical Activity” was a clear indication of the direction Canada intends to take in the next few years. Are you planning on championing physical activity for all? Are you planning on including more funding to improve physical activity levels for Canadians? We hope you will look at the statistics – that physical inactivity is the 4th leading cause of death, and that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week is a prevention and treatment tool for the chronic health conditions that are crippling our healthcare system, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer, and that recent research has proven exercise is as effective, if not more effective, than medication for many mental health conditions.
We trust that you will look at ways to ensure Canadians have access to physical activity, and that we reverse the trend of sedentary and inactive lifestyles that costs our healthcare system billions of dollars. If more Canadians were to get their 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, we would reduce rates of heart disease, diabetes, and many more chronic illnesses.
We know you are aware that physical activity, and not simply walking, but strength training, mobility, balance and heart rate zone training is essential for all Canadians and we hope to work together on tangible ways to move the needle. Blanket statements to “get moving” are not effective enough.
What about exercise prescriptions? We simply need to look to Sweden. Decades ago, Sweden recognized that insufficient physical activity was directly linked to non-communicable health conditions, and introduced Physical Activity on Prescription. The success of this program is now being tested in nine neighboring countries. Sweden discovered not only the positive effects on physical activity levels and health outcomes, but that it was essential to have structured interventions and regular follow-ups to make sure that physical activity is sustained long-term.
Researchers in Sweden say the success of this program came through invested interest from many stakeholders at the national, regional and local level. Our experience in Canada shows there are so many incredible associations and organizations, including Participaction, Heart and Stroke, Canadian Cancer Society, Obesity Canada, Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, the Canadian Medical Association and many others who are interested stakeholders in improving physical activity levels.
The Fitness Industry Council of Canada is one of those invested stakeholders. Our mission is to support, promote and protect the fitness industry, and to ultimately improve the lives of Canadians. During COVID, our industry faced significant challenges due to lockdowns and closures, losing hundreds of millions of dollars. We still do not have a full understanding of the impact on our industry, but reports suggest that between 10 and 25% of our businesses are permanently closed due to COVID.
Less gyms equals less access to physical activity centers.
One of our key lobbying efforts has been our federal budget submission to revise line 33099 of the federal income tax form to include gym memberships as an eligible medical expense. We have significant global and Canadian data that proves physical activity reduces healthcare costs. The majority of Canadians do not get the 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous physical activity needed to prevent and treat chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many types of cancer.
We look forward to engaged meetings with you once you return to Parliament Hill.
Sara Hodson, President of FIC
Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of FIC
Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.