Physical Activity and Sport Monitors (population studies)

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What is the Physical Activity Monitor?

The Physical Activity Monitor (PAM) survey tracks physical activity and sport participation among Canadians and tracks changes in physical activity patterns over time, along with factors influencing participation.

How is the Data Collected?

The Physical Activity Monitor is an annual telephone survey of nationally representative population samples.

The surveys representativeness of various specific populations (for example by gender groups, age groups, geographic, and socio-economic groups) are strengths of the surveys.

The surveys are cross-sectional in nature so the data are applicable to surveillance and hypothesis generating purposes, but are not applicable for assessing cause and effect.

Sample sizes range from approximately 4,000 to 11,000 depending on the year collected.

Themes of collection rotate, due to the number of indicators that are collected within the Monitoring Program. Indicators were established initially in 1996 through a needs assessment which was conducted among academics and senior governmental officials. These are reviewed at the commencement of each survey by the Monitoring Program Advisory Committee which oversees changes to the program (e.g. addition of CANPLAY) and are involved in knowledge transfer and exchange related to the evidence yielded by these surveys.


What Data are Collected?

Due to the large number of high priority indicators outlined in the 1997 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Framework for Action the indicators were organized into theme areas. Each year, the survey focuses on a different theme and historically followed a 5 year cycle of collection.

1995, 1997, 2002, 2007 Physical Activity Monitor: trend information or monitoring changes in key indicators

o    most pressing indicators were collected more frequently than every five years. 

1998, 2003, 2008, 2014 Physical Activity Monitors: individual factors and communication strategies

·         focus on individual-level factors associated with physical activity and sport that may be influenced by communications and  factors to considered in building a communications strategy such as:

o     awareness

o     knowledge

o     beliefs

o     attitudes

o     self-efficacy

o     intention

o     trial behaviours or behavioural changes made to become more active

1999, 2004, 2009 Physical Activity Monitors: community sport and recreation

·         focus on local opportunities to be active including the

o    amount of physical activity facilities and opportunities in the community

o    usage of facilities and opportunities

o    satisfaction with facilities and opportunities

o    barriers to using programs and facilities

o    availability of information about physical activity opportunities

2000, 2005, 2010-2011 Physical Activity Monitors: focus on children and schools

·         focus on children and youth, including

o    availability of physical education

o    satisfaction with physical education

o    extracurricular activities at school

o    opportunities in the community

o    family participation and support

o    time spent in active and sedentary pursuits after school

2001, 2006 Physical Activity Monitor: workplace physical activity

·         a focus on the workplace including

o    supportive policies for physical activity at work

o    availability of facilities at work to be active

o    other opportunities to be active at or near work

o    work related benefits of physical activity

o    work related barriers to physical activity


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

Sport Monitor

The Sport Monitor tracks changes in sport participation and factors associated with participation.

How is the Data Collected?

These surveys are national, random-digit dialing telephone-based surveys of representative population samples. These surveys are typically conducted roughly every four years and data collection covers a two year span. The surveys are cross-sectional in nature so associations, but not causal relationships, may be determined. Sample sizes of the Sport Monitors are roughly 4,000.  

Data collection is harmonized where possible to be conducted in concert with the theme years focusing on individual level factors and communications, focus on local opportunities and focus on children and youth outlined above. As there were additional high priority indicators for sport participation which were not relevant to workplace programming, a separate stand-alone sport survey, called the Sport Monitor, was conducted to gather information on these indicators during the other two theme years of the five year cycle (i.e., the focus on workplace and summary year).


To date, two waves of the Sport Monitor have been completed:

·         2006-2007 Sport Monitor

·         2011-2012 Sport Monitor

What Data is collected?

Sport participation measures are regularly included in the annual Physical Activity Monitors, however a broad range of sport related indicators are included in the Sport Monitors. Benchmark indicators were established initially in 2004.

Indicators include:

·         the nature of participation

·         barriers

·         beliefs about the benefits

·         volunteering

·         expenditures

·         preferences

·         motivation

·         satisfaction

·         support

·         services


Adult sport participation was collected during the first two theme years and young people’s sport participation was collected during the latter theme year.