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Participation Down In Canadian Sport

August 5, 2005 – Canadians derive major benefits from sport, and governments must integrate sport policy within the larger context of Canada’s socio-economic development, according to a new Conference Board study released at the Federal-Provincial/Territorial Conference of Ministers Responsible for Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation.

“Many Canadians are unaware of how powerfully sport benefits their health, skills, communities and economy, and contributes to shaping our national and cultural identity,” said Michael Bloom, co-author of Strengthening Canada: The Socio-economic Benefits of Sport Participation in Canada. “Future sport policy must take into account its wide-ranging impact on larger productivity, health and wellness, skills and labour market issues.”

A lack of awareness by Canadians about the benefits of sport in their lives may help explain why active participation has declined in the past decade. Between 1992 and 2004, the percentage of adults who actively participate in sport dropped from 45 per cent to 31 per cent. At the same time, Canadians are not finding adequate alternatives to stay fit, and the proportion of Canadians who are obese or overweight is rising.

Governments have a role in formulating sport policy. Sports and health departments should create closer linkages between them, and financial targets for health-care savings could be built into medium-and long-term performance measurement of sport policy and program performance. Benefits of sport participation should be targeted to include groups that are currently underrepresented.

The study methodology included a National Household Survey on Participation in Sport of 2,408 households. It found that Canadian households spent about $16 billion on sport in 2004, about 1.2 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product. More than 13.7 million adult Canadians take part in sport as participants, volunteers or attendees, including more than eight million who actively participate in sport. In addition, men are more likely to be active in sports than women, the presence of children in a household makes adult participation twice as likely, and individuals with higher levels of education and income are much more likely to participate in sport.

The Conference Board study was commissioned by Sport Canada to provide original data about the impact of sport participation. A copy of the briefing is available at <www.conferenceboard.ca>.

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