Modifiable Risk Factors – Physical Inactivity
About half (51%) of Ontario adults did not meet the cancer prevention recommendations for physical activity in 2017. The recommendations are to be moderately to vigorously physically active for 30 minutes or more each day. The rate of physical inactivity was significantly higher in women than men, urban residents than rural residents, immigrants than Canadian-born residents, lower household income than higher household income and high-school or lower education compared with post-secondary graduates.
Why is this important to Ontarians?
- Modifiable risk factors are behaviours and exposures that can lower or raise a person’s risk of cancer and that can be changed. Evidence confirms an association between physical inactivity and the risk of certain cancers. A comprehensive World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research review found evidence that regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Reporting on risk factor prevalence in Ontario is important to effectively monitor trends over time, support the development of health promotion and disease prevention strategies, and evaluate outcomes of provincial interventions.
See Modifiable Risk Factors Methodology for technical information.
- Between 2015 and 2017, the proportion of Ontario adults ages 18 and older who did not meet the cancer prevention recommendations for physical activity remained stable from 2015 to 2017 (about 51%). Over this period, in each year, women were significantly more likely than men to be physically inactive.
- In the years 2015 to 2017, the rate of physical inactivity in Ontario adults ages 25 and older was higher in:
- urban residents (51.2%) compared with rural residents (48.3%)
- the lowest income quintile (57.7% in Q1) compared with the highest income quintile (42.1% in Q5)
- those with secondary or less than secondary education (53.6% and 57.8% respectively) than in post-secondary graduates (48.4%)
- immigrants who came more than 10 years ago and recent immigrants (55.9% and 62.7% respectively) compared with Canadian-born residents (46.7%)
- This indicator needs improvement because the rates of physical inactivity are high and show differences by socio-demographic factors. Exposure to some risk factors is higher in particular social, economic or geographic populations. Populations facing health inequities experience higher incidence and mortality rates for certain cancers.
- Policies and programs are needed to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in the Ontario population. These initiatives are particularly important for populations facing health inequities because they may be at higher risk for a range of chronic diseases that physical activity could help prevent.
- Active transportation can be an important contributor to physical activity. When destinations such as businesses, schools and workplaces are within walking distance of people’s homes, active transportation (e.g., walking, cycling) is likely to increase.
- Evidence shows that healthy public policy and community-wide programs work better to reduce the prevalence of modifiable risk factors at a population-level than those that focus on changing individuals’ behaviours.
- The Prevention System Quality Index is a series of reports that monitor population-level policies and programs that can reduce cancer risk factors and exposures in the Ontario population. The reports include evidence-based recommendations to strengthen cancer prevention in Ontario.