Youth reported accumulating, on average, two hours less physical activity per week in the fall of 2020 compared with the fall of 2018 (-129 minutes per week).
The percentage of youth meeting the Canadian physical activity recommendation for children and youth dropped from 50.8% in the fall of 2018 to 37.2% in the fall of 2020. Physical activity decreased more among youth living in urban (-135 minutes per week) compared with rural (-86 minutes per week) areas. Physical activity decreased more among youth from Ontario (-168 minutes per week), Quebec (-121 minutes per week) and the Prairies (-106 minutes per week) compared with youth from the Atlantic provinces (-38 minutes per week) and British Columbia (-75 minutes per week). There was no change in the percentage of adults aged 18 and older meeting the Canadian physical activity recommendation between the fall of 2018 (52.7%) and the fall of 2020 (53.3%). Weekly physical activity was stable between fall 2018 and fall 2020 among 18 to 49 year olds, while significant increases were observed among adults aged 50 to 64 years (+41 minutes per week), 65 to 79 years (+55 minutes per week) and 80+ years (+20 minutes per week). Increases in physical activity among adults were statistically significant only among non-immigrant, non-Indigenous, those not designated as a visible minority, those living in urban areas and those with a postsecondary degree.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental impact on the physical activity of youth but not adults. The findings of this study add to a growing body of evidence that shows the considerable impact the pandemic has had on many aspects of Canadian life, including physical activity.