Overview Physical Activity and Sport Monitoring Program

The Physical Activity Benchmarks Program is a joint venture of the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council.

What are we doing?

We established and now monitor changes of physical activity benchmark indicators to enable governments to be accountable for expenditures with respect to the outcomes and impacts achieved by the investment of public dollars in support of physical activity. The benchmarks/monitoring program serves as a tool to help policy makers measure progress in increasing the population levels of physical activity and provides information for setting policies and strategies for joint action, and monitoring the results of implementation strategies and initiatives within the joint governmental framework entitled, Physical Inactivity: A Framework for Action. (Federal, Provincial and Territorial Fitness and Recreation Committee. (1996). Physical Inactivity: A Framework for Action. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada.) The program supports the information requirements to monitor the progress of toward the joint governmental objective to increase physical activity by 10 percentage point nationally and in each jurisdiction by the year 2010 (Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments. (2003). Bathurst, NS), and by contributing to stated health, social, and economic aims in the Framework for Action.

What are benchmark indicators?

Benchmark indicators provide information to track change, measuring whether the physical-activity-related aspects of the quality of Canadian life are improving, deteriorating or staying the same. They also provide information to guide the development of strategies to increase physical activity levels. The Institute established a series of benchmarks indicators during the years 1997-2001. In 2002, we began monitoring the changes to these indicators over time.

Why develop benchmark indicators?
  • to serve as a tool to help policy makers measure Canada's progress in achieving higher levels of physical activity;
     
  • to monitor progress against national and provincial/territorial benchmarks for physical activity, active living and fitness;
     
  • to assess psychological, environmental and cultural determinants which enhance and detract from participation;
     
  • to identify factors that influence the process of behaviour change;
     
  • to examine the overall effect of programs and policy interventions;
     
  • to describe long-term participation patterns and changes;
     
  • to evaluate the overall implementation of the action plan and the cost of change;
     
  • to identify and formulate recommendations.

Benchmarks program

The benchmarks program serves as a tool to help policy makers measure progress in reducing population levels of physical inactivity and provides information for monitoring the results of implementation strategies and initiatives within Physical Inactivity: A Framework for Action. (Reference: Federal, Provincial and Territorial Fitness and Recreation Committee. (1996). Physical Inactivity: A Framework for Action. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada.)

Monitoring framework

The framework supports the information requirements to monitor progress of Physical Inactivity: A Framework for Action toward its objective to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by the year 2003 and contributing to its stated health, social, and economic aims. In addition, the framework supports information required for policy and strategies for joint action.

Key elements of the framework
Capacity of the system to provide opportunities Determinants of participation Participation levels Contribution to aims and outcomes
Partnerships
Leadership
Leverage
Resources
Physical environment*
Social environment*
Individual
Policies and supports
Physical activity
Physical recreation sport
Health
Social
Economic

* Environments include: home, work, school, community, health care and other systems with which individuals come into contact.

The program also encompasses

  • settings and channels: work, school, home, community, health care system, recreation system, government levels, media
     
  • population sub-groups: age (including youth-at-risk), sex, education, income (including children in poverty), cultural groups (particularly aboriginals)
     
  • equitable access including actual level of initiatives, services and opportunities, versus perceptions of level, actual use, and the factors encouraging and detracting from usage

Physical Activity Monitor

The Physical Activity Monitor is part of the benchmarks/monitoring program. It is an annual telephone survey that tracks changes in physical activity patterns, factors influencing participation, and life circumstances in Canada. As such, it tracks outcome indicators of the efforts to increase physical activity among Canadians.

Survey partners can purchase customized questions and add sample either nationally or for a particular province or region.

To date, twelve waves of the Physical Activity Monitor have been completed:

Reporting on physical activity indicators

For each year in the five-year plan, the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute published an annual Physical Activity Benchmarks report with a new focus to help policy-makers and program leaders to

  • assess psychological, environmental determinants which enhance and detract from participation;
     
  • identify factors that influence the process of behaviour change;
     
  • provide a comprehensive picture of settings and channels employed to create change by examining capacity of the setting or channel, opportunities and supports provided by the system, determinants of participation, participation rates and outcomes relevant to the specific setting or channel;
     
  • describe long-term participation patterns and changes;
     
  • plan and develop effective strategies by examining physical activity trends;
     
  • determine which activities are most appealing to Canadians;
     
  • maximize the use of scarce resources.
     

For a list of reports published so far, see our list of publications.