Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be supporting Bill S-211 because it aims to designate the first Saturday in June of each year as national health and fitness day.
We are pleased to support this bill from my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. It is a laudable initiative indeed, even though symbolic. However, I think we need more than just a day and we certainly need to do more as governments to promote healthy, active living at all ages.
I remember my years as a physician when I was very involved with the British Columbia Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association. One of the things we had been trying to do for years, and I am talking about 30 years, was promote one hour of daily quality physical activity in schools, but we could not get that done. Not all provinces have that at the moment.
I heard my colleague say that if one begins as a young person learning to be physically active every single day of one's life, it becomes a lifestyle habit. It becomes like brushing one's teeth, having a snack in the middle of the afternoon, getting homework done, watching TV, all of those other things. It becomes a part of one's routine and one's life. It is easier then to carry that on as one grows and goes through life cycles, so that by the time one becomes a senior, one would continue to have that active physical living.
We know that active living is not only a good thing to incorporate into one's lifestyle, but it is an important part of health promotion and disease prevention. Exercise and active living helps people who have Alzheimer's postpone the disease. If we can start getting people active throughout their lifetime, we may be able to postpone Alzheimer's. If we postpone Alzheimer's for five years, we will literally be seen to have eradicated the disease, mainly because we do not live five years longer every year, and people would not have their ability to remember and function neurologically fail.
We also know that there is a rise in children who will never be as healthy as their parents were, mainly because of type 2 diabetes and obesity. It does not help to have computers, as we all sit here everyday and watch ourselves become slightly addicted to social media and everything else we do with computers. Again, it tends to bring down the level of physical activity in young people.
We also find that eating fast foods, processed foods and a large amount of food that is high in fat and sugar have a tendency to create obesity. We know that increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and with type 2 diabetes, vision problems, as well as neurological problems later on in life.
Active living will assist people throughout their lives to either prevent or postpone chronic disease and illness, which, to be crass, costs the health care system a great deal of money. Active living will create savings so that we can put money into other things that are necessary to keep us healthy and give us quality of life, such as mental health care or other areas of health promotion and disease prevention.
We can perhaps look at finding a way to assist people who are physically and mentally unable to work and live reasonable quality lives. There are a lot of things we could do with that money we would save the health care system by reducing hospital costs.
At the same time, people will be healthier, work and live longer. We see that seniors today are living and working longer. They will continue to contribute to the tax base, the economy and the productivity of the nation.
The initiative to designate a national health and fitness day has been gaining widespread support for all those reasons. We now have about 150 municipalities across the country that have adopted some form of health and fitness day.
The bill originated in the other place by Senator Nancy Greene Raine, who is an avid supporter of active living. Increased physical activity not only promotes physical health but also mental and emotional health. Again, we find that people who exercise more are less likely to be depressed and less likely to have problems like Alzheimer's.
Over the last decade, the participation rate in physical activity in Canada has actually declined. The majority of Canadian adults and children do not meet the physical activity level guidelines. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in the period between 1981 and 2007-09, measured obesity roughly doubled in most age groups in the adult and youth categories for both sexes. The data also indicated that approximately one in four, which is 24.3%, Canadian adults age 18 years and over is obese. The combined rate of Canadians who are overweight and obese is 62%.
In 2005, the costs of adult obesity in Canada were estimated at $1.8 billion in direct health care costs and $2.5 billion in indirect costs for a total of $4.3 billion.
Obesity and lack of physical activity increases the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis. We know it is linked to some types of cancer, though we do not quite know how direct the links are.
The 2009 report estimated that on average an inactive person compared to an active person spends 38 more days in hospital and uses 5.5% more family physician visits, 13% more specialist services, and 12% more nurse visits.
The rate of obesity varies across the country. It is a good thing to dedicate a day across Canada to fitness, and for the federal government to be talking about this since the federal government is responsible for the health and well-being of Canadians regardless of where they live.
What we saw from a recent UBC study is that my home province of B.C. has the lowest obesity rate. That is probably in part because British Columbians tend to engage in more healthy and active lifestyles. It just so happens that we also live in lotus land which offers the best things since sliced bread. The mover of the bill can relate to this, coming from British Columbia himself.
In 2005, the previous Liberal government invested $300 million over five years in the Public Health Agency of Canada for an integrated strategy of healthy living and chronic disease to ensure that Canada had an integrated approach in addressing major chronic diseases and their risk factors. One of the key pillars was promoting health by addressing the conditions that lead to unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and unhealthy weights.
There are many factors that play into the physical activity and healthy living of adults all the way through their life cycle. This is important; this is a start. This is only one of many things we can do. It is one way to remind us, at least once a year, that we should get out there and become active.