Crystal ball forecasts a future of aches and pains, less active lifestyles for Canadians

March 2012
Shelburne, ON

Canadians limit their health by giving in to joint pain

Toronto, ON – April 22, 2008 – In a recent national survey, adult Canadians cite pain and physical limitations, lack of time and lack of money as the three main barriers to a healthy, active lifestyle.  The research finds that we know being active is important to being healthy – but we’re not so good at doing what we know we should.  It could be, at least in part, because 10 million of us live with chronic or recurrent pain.

Spearheaded by a task force of the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA), CARP (Canada’s Association for the 50+), and Patient Partners in Arthritis, the research examined Canadians’ feelings and perceptions about active living – awareness and understanding of the benefits of active living, thoughts about changing activity levels as they age, and barriers to living an active life at any age.

The research also shows that more than 8.5 million Canadians expect to be less physically active 20 years from now. This expectation is in part because they mistakenly believe that aches and pains commonly associated with osteoarthritis (OA), are a natural part of aging.

Expectations around decreased physical activity are even greater with those who suffer from OA. In fact, an alarming 81 per cent of OA suffers expect joint pain to increase as they age and over half (53 per cent) feel they’ll be less physically active 20 years from now.  

“Regular activity is important in the successful management of osteoarthritis, it’s actually part of the arthritis treatment plan,” said Dr. William Bensen, a rheumatology consultant at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.  “People with OA need to communicate and work with their physician to manage their pain as much as possible so that they can be active and healthier as they age.”

Pain and physical limitations aren’t the only barriers to daily physical activity. Time constraints are also an issue to daily physical activity with 56 per cent of adult Canadians citing this as a barrier to making physical activity a daily commitment; another 26 per cent cite money as a limiting factor. 
Some other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • Twenty-seven per cent of Canadian adults say they are inactive
  • Inactive Canadians acknowledge that their inactivity will affect them negatively later in life, while those leading an active lifestyle believe it will have a positive impact  
  • Canadians aged 25-44 are the most likely to describe themselves as inactive; those aged 18-24 and 65+ are the most likely to describe themselves as active
  • Eighty per cent of Canadians aged 65+ describe themselves as being physically active
  • Two thirds of Canadians expect an increase in joint pain as they age
  • One quarter of Canadians experience pain on a daily or weekly basis that prevents them from partaking in certain physical activities
  • A third of Canadian who say they experience joint pain ignore their pain all together

“We are pleased to see that Canadians understand being active helps in being healthy -- it is a good start,” said Philippe Markon, Past-Chair of ALCOA.  “We are disappointed to see people expect activity to decrease as they age, so now we need to help them understand that aches and pains are not a natural part of aging, and how to get and stay active, how to overcome their barriers and be healthy as they age.”

“Information on available community-based facilities and programs at little or no cost needs to be more accessible,” said Anne Lyddiatt, arthritis advocate and member of Patient Partners in Arthritis.  “Canadians with arthritis need to know how important physical activity is for living a healthy, more active and less painful lifestyle and that there are programs designed for any stage of the disease.”

“Canada’s 11 million Zoomers are healthier than generations before and are more concerned about their health than ever,” said Holly Vengroff, Director of External Relations, CARP. “The results of this survey confirm the barriers that need to be overcome for them to maintain their health as they age.”
The task force is calling on all Canadians to take up a five-step plan to healthy and active aging.

  • Aim for 30 minutes of activity a day.  Try to do 10 minutes of activity three times a day.  When you see how easy it is, you can gradually add more.  
  • Use existing – and often free – resources. Research your community facilities and programs to see what’s available.
  • Find simple things to do that fit your life. Some examples:
    • walk to work, at lunch or after dinner;
    • get off the bus or subway one stop earlier and walk the last distance;
    • walk on the spot during TV commercials;
    • park further from the mall doors;
    • do an extra lap around the perimeter of the grocery store while shopping;
    • lift soup cans or bottles of water when walking outside or “on the spot”;
    • use rubber tubing for resistance exercises. Different colours indicate different resistance levels so be sure you have the one suitable for your fitness level; 
    • check out the library and/or video store for exercise videos – try before you buy to find one that you like and are able to do;
    • do chair exercises while you’re sitting at work or in front of the TV.
  • Find an activity buddy. It’s always easier to stay motivated with someone else.
  • Proactively manage aches and pains – they’re not a “normal part of aging.” Work with your doctor and healthcare professionals to help manage your pain so you can stay active.

About the Report

Survey scope and campaign objectives were developed by a task force including the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA), CARP and Patient Partners in Arthritis, and were supported through an unrestricted education grant from Pfizer Canada Inc.

Leger Marketing conducted this study via 2,161 online surveys. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/-2.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA)

ALCOA, a partnership of organizations and individuals having interest in the field of aging, encourages older Canadians to maintain and enhance their well-being and independence through a lifestyle that embraces daily physical activities.
The Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA) envisions a society where all older Canadians are leading active lifestyles thereby contributing to their physical and overall well-being.


CARP is the leading national voice for Canada’s 50-Plus population mandated to provide its members with powerful advocacy on issues affecting their health, their finances and their rights, a range of useful benefits and savings and community support through local and regional chapters for an overall improved quality of life.

A national non-profit organization, CARP works for the benefit of Canada’s 11 million “Zoomers” - the term for the 50-plus demographic in our New Vision of Aging for Canada.

CARP keeps Zoomers informed through CARP Magazine (soon to be rebranded as Zoomer Magazine), the e-newsletter CARP Action Online, and via

For more information contact 1.800.363.9736 or visit

Patient Partners in Arthritis

The Patient Partners in Arthritis Program offers an innovative approach to improving the quality of arthritis care in Canada. The program addresses issues central to today's healthcare delivery by providing effective training for healthcare providers and trainees. Since the program's launch in 1996, more than 3,300 medical trainees and over 3,000 healthcare professionals have been educated by Patient Partners.

The full report is available at Arthritis project page and

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