Leading organizations, experts collaborate to get more people moving
A new report launched this week explores how more people can access physical activity during and after the pandemic. Change for Good Health: Blueprint for Canada outlines key recommendations, based on input from 22 organizations and healthcare experts, to make access to sport, recreation and fitness equitable for everyone – especially given additional barriers the pandemic has presented.
Over the last 14 months, increased inactivity has taken a considerable toll on people’s mental and physical health. Based on studies about the detrimental health effects of inactivity, this could put more people at risk of lowered immune system, heart disease, obesity, substance abuse and increased stress and loneliness. These risks are even more pronounced among those who are marginalized.
Recognizing that inactivity is eroding the health of the general population – especially for those with limited access to resources, spaces, programs or even time to exercise, fitness leader and philanthropist David Patchell-Evans partnered with social good consulting firm impakt to establish Change for Good Health. The vision for the project is to prioritize access to physical activity for everyone, alongside education and medical care.
“I believe Canada can be the healthiest country in the world, but we need to change how we think about physical activity. You need to exercise to have good health. It’s an essential part of physical and mental wellness. The ability to access fitness options should be a right for everyone,” Patchell-Evans said. “Unfortunately, there are huge portions of the population who just can’t access the facilities or programs they need to be active. The pandemic has made the situation far, far worse. Inactivity threatens to shorten our life spans, significant lower our quality of life and overwhelm our healthcare system.”
Change for Good Health brought together leading experts in the sport, recreation, fitness, academic, community development and healthcare sectors. The group met earlier this year to share research related to physical activity and health, as well as lessons learned and best practices for delivering programs to vulnerable communities.
Based on participant input, the discussion paper outlines six key target areas for action to reach more people with options for physical activity:
- Accomplish more together by building the tools and partnerships to share lessons and best practices across the health and wellness sector.
- Democratize physical activity. Build accessible and inclusive sport, recreation, and physical activity programs.
- Make sport and physical activity a welcoming and safe space for all.
- Make physical activity approachable, relevant and relatable. Set achievable goals for physical activity and involve marginalized communities in developing programs.
- Ensure those who deliver programming are equipped to address the social and mental health impacts of physical inactivity.
- Start early with health literacy. Incorporate movement at an early age and work to build a foundation in health literacy that will set people up for success.
“It’s clear there isn’t a quick fix. Inactivity has been an issue for generations, and has been made worse by the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion paper is just the beginning. It reflects existing research and diverse experiences of the experts who took part from many different sectors. These recommendations are designed to guide efforts by leaders in the physical activity sector. We hope they will inform program development, implementation, policy and strategy and make life better,” said Paul Klein, CEO of impakt.
Change for Good Health participants will regroup to identify and pursue collaboration opportunities, and innovative ways to create new projects and improve existing ones. Klein explained the purpose is to maximize resources, research and expertise to create the right conditions for more people to be active.
Organizations taking part in Change for Good Health include Abilities Centre, Bootcamps for Change, BGC Canada, Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, Canadian Tire Jump Start Charities, Canadian Women & Sport, canfitpro, Diabetes Canada, Exercise is Medicine Canada, GoodLife Fitness, GoodLife Kids Foundation, Heart & Stroke, Jays Care Foundation, MLSE LaunchPad, Move to Live More, Right To Play and Unsinkable.
Academic and medical experts 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.
Click here to find out more about Change for Good Health.