Engaging in sport, physical activity and recreation is proven to promote good physical, mental, and social health. Moreover, physical inactivity accounts for $3.9 billion of annual health care expenditures.[1]

Health-enhancing physical activity helps to decrease the risk of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Further, participating in these activities improves immune response, thereby decreasing the risk of contracting communicable diseases such as COVID-19. As we prepare for a future that will include other crises, like another pandemic, increasing physical activity may help reduce infection rates and slow the spread of disease.[2]

There is a growing mental health crisis in Canada that includes a troubling rise in substance abuse, people experiencing homelessness, and all the associated challenges. Some reasons for this include public health restrictions during the pandemic that led to social isolation, economic hardship, and climate anxiety, among others. During the pandemic, Canadians sought solace by participating in recreational pursuits and rediscovering and reconnecting with nature. It is important now, more than ever, to create opportunities, environments, and circumstances that support Canadians so they can continue to pursue recreational activities that contribute to improving mental and physical wellbeing. Reducing levels of social isolation and loneliness that became even more pronounced during the pandemic must be a priority.

The sector delivers real, quantifiable value in promoting and improving mental and physical health and social connectedness. It must be more intentional about promoting the impact of its significant contribution to society. In a recent survey, most Canadians (70%-76%) said that sport, physical activity, and recreation contributes to: feeling welcomed or included; feeling networked or connected to the community; feeling a sense of community cohesion or community pride; and feeling a sense of trust and reliance in the community. It would be hard to overstate the role the sector can play, and at a relatively low cost, in reducing risk factors and contributing to solutions that improve overall health and quality of life, while reducing the burden on our faltering health care system, saving lives and billions of dollars.

 

[1] Measuring the Impact of Sport, Physical Activity, and Recreation in Canada (https://measuring-impact.ca/impact/health-impact/). Accessed March 2024.

[2] Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10468187/#:~:text=Overall%2C%20most%20studies%20indicated%20that,3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8038831/

https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/56/10/568. All accessed March 2024.

 

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