Active Living

Credit: Tavis Ford

What is this issue about?

Healthy communities are active communities where everyone has access to parks and recreation opportunities that support physical activity. We know that regular physical activity protects against chronic disease, increases mental health and well-being, and reduces loneliness, isolation, and alienation. For example:

  • Well-planned multi-purpose facilities and safe and accessible outdoor spaces and trails not only support and promote healthy, active lifestyles, but they enable people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to connect to their neighbours and contribute to the social fabric of the community.
  • Recreation and sport facilities such as public pools, arenas, fitness centres, parks, and trails are often vibrant community “hubs”, promoting active living and providing a venue for strong community connections.

Local governments play a large role in building the conditions that support all British Columbians to lead healthier, more active lives. These conditions for active living begin right in our communities – where people live, work, learn, and play.

Why is active living important for health and well-being and healthy communities?

Despite the known health benefits of physical activity, about half of Canadian adults and 91% of Canadian children and youth are not getting the recommended levels.i Lack of physical activity is also one of the main contributors to rising obesity rates 26% of children in Canada are overweight or obese.ii Canada’s childhood obesity rates are among the highest in the developed world – rates have almost tripled since 1978.iii Active living is a critical component of health, well-being, and healthy communities.

Did you know…

  • Only 58% of adults in B.C. get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day.iv
  • The most recent Canadian Health Measures Survey found that only 7% of Canadian children and youth get the recommended amount of physical activity.v
  • The risk of obesity goes up 6% for every hour spent in a car each day, while the risk of obesity goes down by almost 5% for every kilometre walked each
  • Young teenagers are 2.5 times more likely to walk if there is a recreation destination within one kilometre of their home.vii
  • Studies show sedentary Canadians are more likely to suffer from depression than physically active Canadians.viii

Why does active living matter for B.C. local governments?

Local governments across B.C. are already leaders in promoting active living by investing heavily in recreation facilities and programs. Building on their existing success, communities can continue to ensure all residents – young, aging, urban, rural, advantaged, and low income – have ready and easy access to places where they can be active and where programs are available that encourage them to do so.

In addition to providing options for active transportation, outdoor play spaces, sports fields, skateboard parks, tennis courts, and recreation complexes, local governments can be leaders in developing policies, programs, and partnerships to engage all citizens in active living.

Take Action

Policy and Planning

Ensure municipal/community plans clearly address physical activity needs and opportunities, including active and safe transportation.ix

The City of Kelowna Social Framework lists multiple policies and strategies for active lifestyles (page 5).

“Sustainable Saanich” OCP (2008) (Section 5, pg 16) addresses physical activity through a number of policies about recreational programming, needs assessments, awareness raising, and partnership development.

Ensure safe opportunities are available for active travel to central hubs such as schools, workplaces, and the downtown core.

Develop policies with school districts for shared use agreements so that the community can optimize utilization of school recreational facilitates after school hours.

The City of Prince George and School District #57 created a shared use agreement, which focuses on community use of school property and school use of City property.

Demonstrate support for local businesses and employees by encouraging healthy workplace policies, such as point of decision prompts, provision of showers, bike racks, and lockers for employees. Local governments can set the example by providing these amenities in their own buildings.


Consult key community stakeholders such as youth, seniors, new immigrants, and low income families to assess the barriers to accessing local physical activity opportunities in recreation centres and on bicycle paths, walkways, and park areas. Remember, lack of participation is not always about cost. Ensure that consultations explore social, cultural, and safety influences on people's ability to access recreation opportunities.

Conduct regular recreation needs assessments to inform parks and recreational planning and programming.

Consult with parks and recreation staff on strategies to encourage better use of recreation facilities and outdoor green space in the community, such as green gyms, walking paths, and trails.


The BC Healthy Living Alliance produced a webinar Let’s Get Physical! Programs and Policies to Get BC Moving describing some of the processes undertaken by communities across B

Partnerships and Programs

Create programs that address financial barriers to participation in physical activity and sport opportunities.

The L.I.F.E. (Leisure Involvement for Everyone) Program in Saanich is designed to provide no cost and low-cost recreation opportunities for individuals and families on limited incomes. The program admission passes offer free, or reduced fee options for a variety of activities.

Create programs that address mental or physical barriers to participation in physical activity and sport opportunities such as dementia-friendly seniors fitness programming.

The City of Vancouver Minds in Motion is low-impact aerobics for people experiencing early stage memory loss due to dementia, and their caregivers, offered in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of BC.

Use the BC Active Ageing Framework as a basis for developing guidelines to make programs more "age-friendly" – accessible and responsive to the specific needs of older persons.xi

Promote and encourage participation in annual challenges and walk, run, paddle, or play events with resources like the Healthy Families BC Walking Challenge Toolkit.

Join the B.C. ParticipACTION Network and be part of a BC Community of Practice related to physical activity, recreation, and sport participation to share information, establish new partnerships, and draw on the expertise of members. Check out their 2016 Impact Report describing their thought leadership and championing of physical activity in Canada.

Work with local government recreation professionals and other community organizations, such as ViaSport BC , the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation & Physical Activity Partners Council, the B.C. ParticipACTION Network, the BC Recreation and Parks Association and others to create linkages between communities, recreation, and sport.