Madam Speaker, as we know, physical inactivity is a serious public health problem. One-third of Canadian children are obese according to a Statistics Canada report released two weeks ago. Close to 60% of young people are inactive to the point of endangering their health.
As children enter adolescence their physical activities start dropping sharply. Young Canadians aged 2 to 11 are estimated to spend an average of 19 hours per week watching television. Clearly the range of recreational choices available to young people has changed. Their habits have changed but not for the better. Three-quarters of overweight teens will still be overweight when they reach adulthood. The adverse effects of inactivity are taking their toll on the health and well-being of Canadians.
We must indeed be concerned by the rising rates of obesity anew and the high rates of physical inactivity among Canadians. As we can see, physical inactivity is dangerously gaining ground. For public health the impact is disastrous, incurring $2.1 billion per year in direct health care costs. Clearly, reducing the sedentary lifestyle of Canadians is critical to the future health of Canadians and the future of our health care system.
I believe that participation in physical activity and sport contributes to the prevention of illness and the enhancement of quality of life of all Canadians. Therefore, physical activity and sport should be viewed as an important vehicle for health promotion and disease prevention. Like other forms of physical activity, sport contributes to the health and fitness of its participants. When we invest in initiatives to encourage Canadians to engage in physical activity and sport we are investing in the long term health and well-being of Canadians.
An increased investment in sport means a decrease in health care costs. The benefits of participation in sport are well documented. They include reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and improved cardiovascular and muscular fitness, contributing to an improved quality of life. Studies have shown that participating in sports and physical activity increases resistance to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity and mental health disorders. It is also estimated that if all Canadians were active this would save $5 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.
I know my colleague, the Minister of Health, strongly shares my concerns. That is why we are working together to develop linkages between healthy living, physical activity and sport. We are concerned by the rising rates of obesity in youth and the high physical inactivity rates among Canadians. To be able to contribute fully to society and to enjoy the best of life, first one must have good health. We all agree that good health comes from participation and physical activity in sport.
The national strategy for healthy living, physical activity and sport, announced in the Speech from the Throne will be a crucial tool to build a healthier nation. Recognizing the important contributions of physical activity in sport to the health of Canadians, as the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport I will be pushing for a balanced health care model that includes both treatment and care and disease prevention and health promotion. I look forward to continue working with the Minister of Health in developing this strategy.
I was pleased that Senator Kirby and the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology share this vision. In fact the Kirby report makes several references to the need for a sharper government focus in the areas of illness, disease and injury prevention. The report states that the standing committee was told repeatedly by those it consulted that government should develop public policies and programs that address non-medical determinants of health.
The Kirby report urges the Government of Canada to promote health and wellness by encouraging Canadians “to take a more active role in improving their health through for example, exercise, healthy food and lifestyle choices”.
I agree and that is why I have been actively promoting the need for greater strategic investments in initiatives that support increased participation in sport and physical activity. In short, we need to continue to support and invest in initiatives that promote a culture of physical activity, and foster healthy habits among all Canadians from the earliest age. In many areas the Government of Canada has already taken this action.
In April, my colleague, the Minister of Health, unveiled new physical activity guides for children and youth. These guides demonstrate the commitment of the Government of Canada to promote the health of our children and youth. We must all encourage children and youth to live more healthy and active lives.
These first-ever national physical activity guidelines for children and youth recommend that inactive children and youth increase the amount of time they currently spend being physically active by at least 30 minutes per day and decrease the time they currently spend sitting still by at least 30 minutes per day.
The goal of the guides is to provide parents, educators, physicians and community leaders with the information they need to help increase physical activity levels in children and youth, and lay the groundwork for healthy growth and development.
The guidelines were developed in partnership with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and are strongly supported by the Canadian Paediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
In April I had the honour to introduce in the House of Commons the proposed act to promote physical activity and sport. The bill demonstrates, once more, the Government of Canada's commitment to encourage, promote and develop physical activity and sport in Canada.
By introducing the bill the Government of Canada seeks, among other things, to encourage greater cooperation among the various governments, physical activity groups, sport communities, and the private sector to increase participation in sport among all Canadians.
Developed in concert with Health Canada, the bill recognizes that physical activity and sports are an integral part of Canadians' lifestyle and culture.
It also recognizes that sport and physical activity provide considerable benefits in terms of health, social cohesion and economic activity.
We want more Canadians to engage in physical activity, practice sport and get moving. However, we recognize that some Canadians face significant barriers in participation in physical activity and sport. For this reason the Government of Canada has taken action to facilitate the participation in sport among girls and young women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, youth at risk, visible minorities and the economically disadvantaged.
In July of this year I had the privilege to announce $551,500 in funding for 14 projects under the sport participation development program. The program was developed on the basis that all Canadians should have access to and benefit from participating in quality sport activities at all levels. We are proud to support national sport organizations in their efforts to increase ongoing participation in sport, recruit new participants and reduce dropout rates.
I am confident that the projects supported by the sport participation development program will contribute to getting more Canadians involved in sport and that this will result in more active and healthy Canadians. Clearly from the federal initiatives that I have outlined the Government of Canada is working to create a culture of physical activity to foster healthy habits among all Canadians from the earliest age.
Right now, in Canada, only 48% of girls between the ages of 5 and 14 play a sport, compared to 61% of boys. The Government of Canada is concerned about the fact that a majority of Canadian girls and women are not reaping the benefits of physical activity. This is a problem we must address.
The Government of Canada is committed to increasing participation in sport at all levels and throughout the lives of girls and women. We will work together with the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, and similar organizations in the provinces and territories to implement a sport participation strategy for girls and women.
We are not just developing strategies. We are taking action and supporting effective initiatives to get girls and women active.
Today I was pleased to participate in a walk with many of my hon. colleagues to promote On the Move Walking Clubs, a national initiative designated by CAAWS, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, to increase the participation of girls and women in sport and physical activity. Initiatives like On the Move highlight the importance of making time for exercise.
The Minister of Health and I applaud Chatelaine magazine and CAAWS for putting this program in place to encourage women to be active, which contributes to good health and ultimately a better quality of life.
On April 6, 2002, the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for sport, fitness and recreation endorsed the new Canadian Sport Policy. This is the first Canadian sport policy to have resulted from a cooperative effort by all 14 governments and extensive consultations with the sport community.
The Canadian Sport Policy is predicated on objectives of increased participation, excellence, resource allocation and interaction.
To translate these objectives into clear measures, all the governments signing on to the policy together defined their targets in a statement of priorities. This is a firm commitment. Each government has undertaken to implement measures over the next three years. Ministers responsible for sport recognize that we all must work together to increase the practice of sport by all Canadians. This objective of sport for all is an objective of public health and equal opportunity. In other words, participation in all types of sports, at every level.
To expand the practice of sport by all Canadians, governments have committed to identifying and eliminating the barriers to participation in sport, be it social, linguistic, cultural or economic. If we want more young people to practise sport and engage in physical activity, we recognize that we need to coordinate our efforts to facilitate access to sport facilities throughout Canada.
At the same time, each province and territory has undertaken to make sport and physical activity more important in school. The provinces and territories have committed to promoting these activities and exploring the various options.
The Government of Canada believes that sport and physical activity are an integral part of Canadian society and culture and, among other things, produce benefits in terms of health and quality of life. Reducing the sedentary lifestyles of Canadians is critical to the future health of Canadians and the future of our health care system. This is why as Secretary of State for Amateur Sport I will continue to promote participation in sport and physical activity as a way of life in Canada.
Good health and well-being begins with each one of us. We all need to fit physical activity into our lives. The Government of Canada believes sport is a priority for the public health as it is a fundamental element of the health and well-being of Canadians. We are committed to encouraging Canadians to improve their health by integrating physical activity into their daily lives and to assist in reducing barriers that prevent Canadians from being active.
We will continue to take action federally and to work with our partners to build a sporting and healthy nation.