Today, we celebrate our hearts.
World Heart Day is a global initiative celebrated annually on September 29th, to raise awareness about cardiovascular health and promote heart-healthy lifestyles. In Canada, heart disease is still a leading cause of death, and according to Heart and Stroke nine out of ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart conditions such as stroke or cardiac arrest. More shockingly, one Canadian dies every five minutes from a heart condition.
Which is why the mission of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) has never been more important, says President Sara Hodson.
“The role of physical activity in improving cardiovascular health is profound,” says Hodson, Clinical Exercise Physiologist, CEO of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic. “Every piece of research points to exercise for both the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Exercise improves our heart health – period. We need to motivate, inspire and incentivize Canadians to get active.”
Last week the World Health Organization issued an alarming report about hypertension which affects one in three adults worldwide. The number of people living with hypertension has doubled in the last twenty years. “The single biggest action we can take to lower blood pressure is to eat a healthy diet and exercise,” says Hodson.
Hodson began her career in cardiac rehab, working with patients for over a decade, helping them use “the most powerful tool for prevention, treatment and management of heart conditions. It is fascinating to see how your body can reverse and heal the impacts of heart disease. If you take your blood pressure before you do ten minutes of physical activity, and then after rest, your blood pressure will go down – and the effects will last for 24 hours,” says Hodson. “It is simply amazing to see the power of exercise on our cardiovascular system.”
A report from Statistics Canada on the state of Canadian’s health, released in September 2023, found that chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity have increased in the last six years, and physical activity levels have declined; comorbidities, where Canadians experience one or more chronic conditions have also increased. The report also showed that fewer Canadians are meeting physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly.
In a 2021 survey conducted by Fitness Industry Council of Canada, 59% of respondents who were not physically active said they would be inspired to join a gym and begin an exercise program if there was a financial incentive. FIC has been lobbying provincial leaders for physical activity credits, and has submitted budget proposals to revise line 33099 of the federal tax form, allowing gym memberships to be considered a medical expense.
A 2022 report from the World Health Organization found that the annual health-care costs from lack of physical activity have reached $27 billion globally; in the same report, the WHO said that the cost of physical inactivity in Canada was estimated at more than $569 million annually.
“We know that a physically active population will save our government billions of dollars in prevention and treatment of health conditions,” says Hodson. “We know that more than half of the population is not active enough. World Heart Day is an excellent reminder that heart health is a shared responsibility and should be a shared goal. We need to address the challenge of heart disease at the personal level, at the community level and at the policy level.”
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.