Will the Federal Budget Answer FIC’s Call to Action? 

Will the Federal Budget Answer FIC’s Call to Action?
By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Fitness Industry Council of Canada

Today, the federal government will announce its 2024 budget with the expectation they will address the housing crisis, the cost of living and climate change.

 

But what about physical activity?

 

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC), the not-for-profit association that speaks for the Canadian fitness industry, submitted a budget proposal that had several key demands, including the proposal to revise line 33099, allowing gym memberships to be included as a medical expense on Canadian’s tax forms. All scientific research and medical evidence points to this: Being physically active dramatically reduces rates of chronic disease, and physically active people put less strain on the healthcare system.

 

FIC also proposed a Physical Activity Tax Credit for Seniors – submitting a research paper that showed that a senior who is physically active is less likely to fall and end up in the ER and is more likely to be able to live independently for longer, and will cost the health care system up to $1874 less money in health insurance claims.

 

But the federal government has many demands, and many priorities. FIC is not expected to have any of its budget requests met. However, this is a timely moment to shine a light on another pandemic that has been happening right in front of our eyes.

STAGGERING OBESITY RATES

A recently published article in The Lancet shed light on the obesity pandemic hitting the world for the last few years. Currently, 43% of adults worldwide are overweight or obese, with alarming predictions rising to more than 50% by 2035. Obesity has now surpassed hunger in the list of global health risks. And yes, in 2024, there will be more chances of dying from the consequences of obesity than from hunger on an international scale.

The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled and in children it has increased by as much as four times. One in three people in Canada is currently obese. This is not a debate about body positivity or fatphobia – it is a major cost for our healthcare system, and places huge demands on treating diseases related to obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

Obesity poses a life-threatening risk; coupled with our inactivity levels, there is a perfect storm brewing

 

What has been overloading our hospitals for some time is not short-lived illnesses or COVID outbreaks, but chronic diseases, all of which are closely linked to both obesity, and an inactive and sedentary lifestyle. What affects our parents, friends, co-workers and even our children are mostly diseases that could be prevented if we were taught to be active, eat well and take care of ourselves.

 

WILL OUR GOVERNMENT BE BRAVE?


When will we have politicians brave enough to tackle the problem beyond four years in office? When will we have a government that is willing to invest heavily in prevention rather than continually funding a curative system? Treating disease is of course critical and necessary, but prevention must be part of the process as well.        

 

We would love to see the government today acknowledge that a Canadian who goes to the gym regularly should be able to claim their gym membership as a medical expense – because that Canadian is, in the short and long-term, going to cost our healthcare system less money. We would love to hear the Minister of Finance announce that every Canadian over the age of 55 will be allowed $500 to spend on a personal trainer or a dietician or a membership to the YMCA. We would love them to invest in sport for youth, and in more funding for marketing and advertising to demonstrate the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle, and the impact achieving 150 minutes of physical activity daily can have on your life. The government provides funding to campaigns for drunk-driving, anti-smoking and workplace accidents – surely the dangers of a sedentary life fall into the same category? We would love the government to create incentives for young people to study preventative medicine and health-related professions – like kinesiology, or coaching.

THE STAKES ARE HIGH

A sedentary lifestyle kills.

 

Obesity kills.

 

The signs are all around us, and right in front of us. Our health system is crying out for help. It’s high time to react, be proactive and become a role model for preventive health.

 

A recent study found that financial incentives do inspire individuals to take action towards a physically active lifestyle.

 

Several reports have proven that investing in moving a Canadian from inactive to active provides a return on that investment in less than a year.

 

Prevention is the answer.

 

Maybe not today, but FIC will continue to ask the government:

If not now, when?

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.

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