Evolution and Devolution of National Physical Activity Policy in Canada

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Cora Lynn Craig
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Low levels of physical activity (PA) and fitness have long been a government concern in Canada; however, more than half of adults are inactive. This article examines factors influencing policy development and implementation using Canadian PA policy as a case study.


Current and historical PA policy documents were amassed from a literature review, audit of government and non government websites and from requests to government officials in each jurisdiction directly responsible for PA. These were analyzed to determine policy content, results, barriers, and success factors.


The national focus for PA policy in Canada has devolved to a multilevel system that meets most established criteria for successful strategies. Earlier PA targets have been met; however, the prevalence of PA decreased from 2005 to 2007. Annual per capita savings in health care associated with achieving the earlier target is estimated at $6.15 per capita, yet a fraction of that is directed to promoting PA.


Evidenced-based strategies that address multiple policy agendas using sector-specific approaches are needed. Sustained high-level commitment is required; advocacy grounded in metrics and science is needed to increase the profile of the issue and increase the commitments to PA policies in Canada and internationally.

The author is with the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and the School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

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