Fast Facts


According to the Conference Board of Canada, if we were to decrease the number of inactive Canadians by even 10%, we’d see a 30% reduction in mortality and a major savings in health care. It is estimated that more than $2.4 billion, or 3.7 per cent of all healthcare costs, were attributed to the direct cost of treating illness and disease due to physical inactivity[1]. The financial impact of poor health amounts to a loss of more than $4.3 billion to the Canadian economy, and the negative repercussions of inactivity cost the healthcare system $89 billion per year in Canada[2]. According to several studies, properly structured and supported exercise programs, designed and delivered by a kinesiologist can:

  • Reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 40%;[3]
  • Reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50% and be twice as effective as standard insulin in treating the condition;[4]
  • Help the function of muscles for people affected by Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis;
  • Decrease depression as effectively as pharmacological or behavioural therapy;[5]
  • Reduce the risk of stroke by 27%;
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer by 60%;[6]
  • Reduce mortality and risk of recurrent cancer by 50%;[7]
  • Reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease by almost 40% compared to those who are less active.[8]

Mental Health

People are still mainly relying on medication for the management of mental health such as depression or anxiety, etc. However, several studies show a 26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity. This increase in physical activity is what you might see on your activity tracker if you replaced 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of running, or one hour of sitting with one hour of moderate activity like brisk walking. (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)

More evidence that exercise can boost mood: Running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression, according to a recent study.  If you do love a good, hearty gym workout, keep going. But if you don’t, just getting off the couch and moving for a little while can help. Ideally, to prevent depression you should do at least 15 minutes a day of higher-intensity exercise, such as running, or at least an hour of lower-intensity exercise, such as walking or housework. (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).

With an additional 35 minutes of physical activity each day, those at risk for depression may be protected against future episodes. “Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable. On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.” (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)

The researchers found that both high-intensity forms of activity, such as aerobic exercise, dance, and exercise machines, and lower-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, were linked to decreased odds of depression.  Overall, individuals could see a 17 percent reduction in odds of a new episode of depression for each added four-hour block of activity per week. (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)

Mental health is about more than being happy all the time. It’s about feeling good about who you are, having balance in your life, and managing life’s highs and lows. (Canadian Mental Health Association)

Many Canadians confuse the terms mental health and mental illness and use them interchangeably—this confusion contributes to the stigma of mental illness; it divides people into those who experience mental illness and those who don’t.

When people understand that mental health is something we ALL have, they realize that mental health is everyone’s issue—we all benefit from celebrating, promoting and acknowledging the role that good mental health plays in living a full and meaningful life.

What mental health really is

  • Diverse evidence from across Canada and around the world indicates that there are six common features of good mental health: a sense of self, a sense of purpose, of belonging, contribution, enjoyment and resilience.

How we’re doing on reducing stigma

We’re not there yet, but when you ask Canadians, we’re on our way to eliminating the stigma that is associated with mental illness. A recent survey found that:

  • 57% of Canadians believe that the stigma associated with mental illness has been reduced compared to five years ago.
  • 81% are more aware of mental health issues compared to five years ago.
  • 70% believe attitudes about mental health issues have changed for the better compared to five years ago.



[1]To date, evidence for these improvements has been credited to aerobic and resistance exercises. The beneficial effects of other types of exercise is not as supportive.

[1] Based on year 2009. Jansen et al., 2012
[2] Based on year 2013.
[3] Cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of hypertension incidence among initially normotensive healthy women.Barlow CE et al. Am J Epidemiol 2006; 163:142-50.
[4] Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. DPP Research Group. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393-403.
[5] Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response.Dunn A et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005.
[6] Physical activity and colon cancer: confounding or interaction? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:June 2002 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – pp 913-919.
[7] Physical activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis.Holmes MD et al. JAMA 2005; 293:2479.
[8] The Role of Physical Activity in the Prevention and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease – Implications for Ontario. Ontario Brain Institute. 2013.

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