Discussion: When it comes to fitness, should we lower our expectations?

It’s no secret that obesity is a growing problem here in Canada. Overweight and obese adults make up 47 percent


It’s no secret that obesity is a growing problem here in Canada. Overweight and obese adults make up 47 percent of the Canadian population, according to a report by the Government of Alberta. So imagine my surprise when the CBC announced that the Public Health Agency of Canada is planning to lower physical activity recommendations for adults and children across the country.

With the new guidelines, activity targets for adults will drop from 60 minutes per day to 150 minutes per week. Children will be encouraged to get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, instead of the previous recommendation of 90 minutes. But why the sudden change?

"Canadians are so sedentary that at really low levels of physical activity, we start to realize measurable health benefits," said Kelly Murumets, president of ParticipACTION, in an interview with CTV. Murumets stressed that the new guidelines’based on research by The Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology’are meant to be taken as a message that we need to move more than we’re moving today. However, in the same interview, Murmets also stated that "all of us need more than the actual minimum guideline," which makes lowering that minimium guideline all the more confusing.

Back in April 2010, Canadian kids were given a failing grade for physical activity by Active Healthy Kids Canada. And a recent survey commissioned by the CBC revealed that only 12 percent of Canadian children are actually meeting the recommended target of 90 minutes of daily physical activity. That means that 88 percent of Canadian kids can’t fit an hour and a half of exercise into their day. But here’s my question: if kids aren’t getting 90 minutes of exercise a day, are they really going to get 60, just because it’s an "easier target" to hit?

Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly respect the message of "some is better than none," because it is. And yes, sometimes less is more’if we’re talking about makeup, dessert and leopard print. But when it comes to keeping Canadians fit and healthy, that just doesn’t seem like the best attitude. Maybe the numbers should have been left alone, because the change seems to be clouding the real message, which is that we need to get moving and we need to do it now.

The new guidelines will launch on January 24, 2011.

Do you agree with the decision to lower activity targets? Is there a better solution for getting people off the couch?

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