Between 1981 and 2009, fitness levels of Canadian children and youth, as well as those of adults, declined significantly, according to the first findings from the Canadian Health
Measures Survey (CHMS). This is the most comprehensive national survey ever conducted in Canada to determine fitness levels.
The CHMS captured key information relevant to the health of Canadians by means of direct physical measurements, such as body measurements, cardio-respiratory fitness, musculoskeletal fitness and blood pressure.
Data from the CHMS show that fitness levels of children and youth have declined significantly since 1981, regardless of age or sex. Fitness levels of adults have also declined, particularly among younger adults.
Among youth aged 15 to 19, the percentage whose waist circumference put them at an increased or high risk of health problems more than tripled.
Among adults, decreases in fitness levels over the same period were particularly pronounced for young adults aged 20 to 39.
Within this group, the percentage with a waist circumference that placed them at a high risk for health problems more than quadrupled. The proportions went from 5% to 21% among men, and from 6% to 31% among women.
Roughly 3% of the adult population had high blood pressure that was undiagnosed in 2009.
Body composition and fitness of children and youth
The BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.
During the survey period of 2007 to 2009, the majority of Canadian children and youth (74%) had a BMI that was neither overweight nor obese, based on physical measurement of their height and weight. Slightly more than 17% were overweight and 9% were obese.
Among both teen boys and girls, the proportion in the waist circumference category who were at high or increased risk of health problems more than tripled.
Also, the strength and flexibility of boys and girls has declined significantly since 1981.
Body composition and fitness of adults
During the 2007-to-2009 period, just under 38% of adults were at a healthy weight. About 1% were underweight, 37% were overweight and 24% were obese.
Proportionally, many more adult men than adult women were overweight. However, roughly equal proportions of both sexes were rated as obese.
On average, the BMI of Canadians was lower than that of Americans, especially in two age groups: 20 to 39 and 40 to 59. Differences were not significant in the age group 60 to 79.
In 2009, more than 90% of the adult Canadian population aged 18 to 79 had an acceptable blood pressure, defined as less than 140/90, that is, 140 millimetres of mercury (systolic) over 90 millimetres of mercury (diastolic).
Of this adult population, 6.4%, or just fewer than 1.6 million people, were measured with high blood pressure, that is 140/90 or higher. Half of them, an estimated 762,000 or about 3% of the adult population, were unaware of their condition.
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