“Let’s Get Active”

“Let’s Get Active”

A call to get up, get out, and get going!

Dear Kanata-Carleton Residents:

Physical activity has multiple positive health benefits that lead to better physical, mental, and social well being. In this introductory paper I present a dozen positive effects that physical activity has on teenagers and young adults. Being active improves your physical health by strengthening your body and helping with weight control. It improves your mental health by energizing your brain and providing stress relief. Being active also improves your social health as it fights isolation and loneliness and provides comradery and a sense of community. For many, many reasons, it makes good sense to get active.

The ”Let’s Get Active” was originally produced to provide background information to teenagers and young adults. However, this information is also helpful for people of all ages. The contents of this paper have been lightly edited since it was first published in March 2020.   

I have made it a practice to highlight the importance of physical activity for our Kanata and West Carleton community. As your MPP, I connect with community associations, youth groups and seniors associations, and look for opportunities to:   

1) raise greater awareness of the benefits of physical activity by sharing news and information  

2) promote physical activities on social media and with awareness campaigns

3) profile stories that demonstrate the significance of physical activity and how this positively impacts a person’s health

The “Let’s Get Active” initiative speaks to core beliefs I have always held and espoused as a family physician. I am pleased to use my MPP office today to encourage an active and healthier lifestyle.  

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP 

“Let’s Get Active”

A call to get up, get out, and get going!

Physical activity has many positive benefits that lead to physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Here are 12 positive effects that physical activity has on teenagers and young adults – in fact, for people of all ages!

Physical activity leads to physical wellbeing:

  • Improves cardiovascular health, cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Builds strong bones and muscles
  • Maintains a healthy body weight
  • Improves motor skills like hand eye coordination

Physical activity leads to mental wellbeing:

  • Builds brain health, which leads to improved learning, better problem solving, and school performance
  • Reduces anxiety, pain and loneliness
  • Builds self esteem
  • Improves sleep, energy levels
  • Results in stronger attention skills

Physical activity leads to social wellbeing:

  • Builds friendships and improves relationships with others
  • Gives a sense of belonging and companionship to be part of a team or group
  • Builds confidence in oneself

Background Notes

Physical Wellbeing

  • Physical activity leads to improved physical wellbeing. It is common sense that being active helps to strengthen your muscles and bones and improves your cardiovascular. Statistics Canada reports “Regular physical activity among children and youth is related to improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body composition, bone density, physical fitness, academic achievement, and aspects of mental health including self-esteem. Conversely, recreational sedentary behaviour, such as time spent watching TV or playing video games, is linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and poorer scores in psychosocial health indicators such as body-satisfaction.”

Statistics Canada:https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00003-eng.htm

  • Use these websites as a springboard into understanding the need for better physical fitness:

— CHEO has an excellent webpage that lists resources – Healthy Active Living


— One resource listed by CHEO is an informative website – Caring for Kids: Physical activity for children and youth


— There is also good information shared by Sick Kids Hospital:


  • ParticipAction has published an insightful document – its 2018 report card on physical activity for children and youth

“The array of health benefits associated with physical activity in children and youth (5- to 17-year-olds) is truly extensive. Available evidence suggests that higher levels of physical activity are associated with more favourable measures of: physical fitness (e.g., vertical jump, sit-and-reach, waist circumference, grip strength, predicted maximal oxygen consumption, push-ups, partial curl-ups, overall fitness), motor competence (i.e., the skill, coordination and control that underlies a given physical activity task), weight status (e.g., lower body mass index, waist circumference), metabolic health (e.g., blood pressure, blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides), arterial characteristics (i.e., measures of artery wall structure and function such as artery wall thickness, artery diameter, etc.), bone health9 (e.g., bone mineral content and density), academic achievement (e.g., math, reading and writing scores on standardized tests), health-related quality of life (indicator of physical, mental, emotional and social functioning), brain and mental health (e.g., cognitive functioning, selfesteem, anxiety, depression), and the list goes on. In view of this, it is hardly surprising that when physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep are considered as the three parts that make up a 24-hour day, it is physical activity – particularly moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) – that is most consistently linked to health.”

ParticipAction: https://participaction.cdn.prismic.io/participaction%2F38570bed-b325-4fc8-8855-f15c9aebac12_2018_participaction_report_card_-_full_report_0.pdf

  • Check out the information on the ParticipAction website:


Mental Wellbeing

  • Physical activity leads to greater mental wellbeing. There is a lot of medical evidence that confirms an active person will have a healthier frame of mind. In the document entitled, “Canadian kids need to move more to boost their brain health.” ParticipAction summarizes its findings in this way: “The benefits of physical activity can also build over time. While some of the effects of physical activity are immediate, participation in regular physical activity supports long-term brain development and better mental health. In addition to immediately improving self-esteem, creativity and concentration, regular physical activity can increase neuroplasticity in children and youth, creating new pathways in their brains and supporting better learning. It also improves brain blood flow, which increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain, and releases neurotrophins and neurotransmitters that support better brain function.”

ParticipAction: https://participaction.cdn.prismic.io/participaction%2F38570bed-b325-4fc8-8855-f15c9aebac12_2018_participaction_report_card_-_full_report_0.pdf

  • The Statistics Canada data illustrates that physical activity improves mental health by decreasing depression, anxiety, pain and loneliness. It highlights the work of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, which published guidelines recommending that children and youth aged 5 to 17:
    • get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day, on average. This can be accomplished through a range of activities such as bicycling, rollerblading, soccer, football, etc.;
    • get an additional several hours of light physical activity (LPA) through structured and unstructured activities.  This can be accomplished through activities such as walking, stretching, playing with animals, etc.;
    • limit their recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day, on average; and
    • get plenty of uninterrupted sleep (9 to 11 hours for 5 to 13 year olds and 8 to 10 hours for 14 to 17 year olds).

Statistics Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00003-eng.htm

  • As the Canadian Medical Association suggests in its research, youth should drop their phones and pick up their feet. Here are significant (and disconcerting) medical findings from the CMA’s study Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health: “Evidence from a variety of cross-sectional, longitudinal and empirical studies implicate smartphone and social media use in the increase in mental distress, self-injurious behaviour and suicidality among youth; there is a dose–response relationship, and the effects appear to be greatest among girls.”

This is a must-read for parents – and for youth. Canadian Medical Association Journal:https://www.cmaj.ca/content/192/6/E136

Social Wellbeing

  • Physical activity leads to social wellbeing. Team sports – and recreational pursuits – are great to build friendships. There is data available that proves physical activity improves one’s self image, which in turn will make a person more confident and outgoing. For example, Sick Kids Hospital has studies that conclude: “Physical activity also improves focus, school performance, sleep and energy levels” and “Those who undertake regular physical activity enjoy improved relationships and a more positive body image.”

Sick Kids Hospital: https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/article?contentid=641&language=english

  • Sick Kids Hospital comments specifically on physical activity and improving relationships:

“If a child or teen is feeling lonely and unable to make friends, shared physical activities can give them a sense of belonging and companionship. A child or teen with social anxiety might find it difficult to be in a group environment, but a particular focus, such as a sport, may relieve some of the social pressure. Over time, the act of sharing experiences with others, developing rapport and working towards common goals can help a child focus and develop the confidence to speak up in class. It can also help foster friendships in school if the activities are school-based.”

Sick Kids Hospital:https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/article?contentid=641&language=english

  • Youth should be encouraged to “play” and not just think of physical activity as an organized sport. Get outdoors to play, take a walk or ride a bike. The ParticipAction study reviews the benefits of “Active Play”:

“Unlike organized sports and structured physical activities, active play has no clear outcome or purpose. However, this kind of play provides a valuable context for children: it is a chance for them to learn and be physically active while having fun. When children are engaged in active play, they are typically moving freely – often with minimal or no adult control – and at an intensity that is above resting and sedentary levels. Replacing just a single hour of screen time with active play can result in an additional energy expenditure of 49 calories. A recent study among Canadian children and youth found that each additional hour spent outdoors was associated with 7 more minutes of daily MVPA, 762 more daily steps and 13 fewer minutes of daily sedentary time. Outdoor play has been linked to improved working memory, social relationships (e.g., ability to develop and sustain friendships, to co-operate, to lead and follow) and emotional well-being (e.g., minimized anxiety, depression and aggression; increased happiness). The outdoors also offers natural play spaces and elements that provide valuable physical and cognitive challenges for children, which help them: ®develop motor skills ®learn about their own potential and boundaries ®navigate their environment ®problem solve and manage risks. In other words, active play can contribute to improved physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.” Page 34: https://participaction.cdn.prismic.io/participaction%2F38570bed-b325-4fc8-8855-f15c9aebac12_2018_participaction_report_card_-_full_report_0.pdf