Promoting healthy active lifestyles

Physical inactivity and prolonged periods of sitting increase the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, breathing issues, and cancer.

Upstream health prevention efforts are important tools for health sustainability. They work to determine the scope of the problem and aim to address the root of the issues. 

Reducing sedentary lifestyles is not tackled at the individual level. There are various environmental,  structural, and social factors that can attenuate physical activity opportunities such as:

  • Community-level PA strategies- Look at urban design, walkability, transportation, activity-friendly street design, cycling initiatives, greenspace quality, availability of safe and good quality parks, and the number of local city amenities that encourage leisure and recreation.
  • School policies- What are the national and state policies and decision-making structures that constitute PA promotion in schools; is it a unified approach or do approaches differ per region, school board, and school? Are there multi-level interventions for physical activity offered to students? Are there movement breaks for students, after-school programs, or sporting events? Is there sufficient green space for children to play at recess, sufficient play equipment? Are teaching staff aware of the connection between physical activity, cognitive development, and mood for children?
  • Workplace policies-Do employers offer bike-to-work schemes, wellness offerings, and incentives, recreation subsidies, or provide transit subsidies or passes? Are there PA policies such as walking meetings or the ability for standing desks? 
  • Social/cultural behaviours- Social networks, family contacts, and peers can influence your physical activity behaviours. Attitudes, cultural norms, and values are influencing factors for physical activity.
  • Family is incredibly influential- Families with children who are active together increase the likelihood of children being physically active in the future. 

Increasing population-based physical activity levels should be viewed as a collaborative approach including local government, urban planning, healthy public policy, transportation sectors, occupational health, community-based groups, increasing public perception of PA and encouraging healthy behaviours, and more.