Participaction all over again

Scott McDermott discusses Participaction and new initiatives to encourage fitness.

When I was really young, a new program started in 1971, called Participaction. It has one goal: to get Canadians into fitness. The head TV commercial personalities for it were Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod during the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. (Yes, they secretly got married in 1999, for those of you that always wondered.)

The program was initially designed to try and battle the massive growing health care costs of the nation, and it was known that if there was simply a way to get people to be more fit and active, that would do wonders.

There was a famous commercial out in 1973, that compared the average healthy Canadian 30-year old to a 60-year old Swedish person. (Our 60-year olds were not even close!)

I still remember thinking that we compared to a 60-year old was a problem as they played it in schools throughout my elementary years – and I was four years old when it started being aired.

Being a ‘new’ country, we didn’t have a lot of things in place to support being healthy, apart from our own decision to go do something. It also wasn’t a priority for a long time, as kids tended to do a lot of chores around the farm – but as cities and suburbia grew larger, that became less and less common.

TV and video games also became a force to be reckoned with – growing from a few homes, to all of them. European countries had more existing facilities and traditions to keep them fit and active, and we needed to develop just that in our spread out wide open country.

Study after study has proven over the years that kids who are inactive have a massive increase in depression, coordination and balance issues, as well as reduced bone density and obviously reduced strength and flexibility. Poorer concentration and school performance are also directly linked to a lack of physical activity.

I wish I could say that Participaction worked and that all of these problems were old news ..but they are not. We still face them today, and in many cases, they are far worse.

According to the statistics, one in three Canadian kids are overweight or obese. Research is clear, and I personally know of local pharmacists in Sylvan Lake and Olds that mentioned they are seeing alarming numbers of kids being diagnosed with diseases that used to only be seen in adults, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The latest effort is called “Towards a Healthier Canada” ( and it is aimed directly at getting all of us moving again.

In the meantime, a super fun thing you can do right now, as a family or an individual, is to check out the Canada 150 Participaction effort. On the website ( you will find a list of 150 things to do before the end of this year.

It is a really fun list and lots of the things are fairly easy to do. Walking, yoga, weight lifting, snow fort building, dancing, triathlon, tug of war, hacky-sack…

Obviously we need to wait until the season changes to build a snow fort…but how many can you get done before the end of the year?

What if you downloaded the list of all 150 items, and put it on the fridge, then did what you could to get as many things done as possible?! Oh, and by the way…there are prizes… It’s really easy to do, and costs nothing. They don’t come to your house and check up on you, it’s an honor system.

When you do something, check it off. Honestly… if you do half of this stuff, I guarantee not only will you have an amazing next six months, but you will be healthier and more fit…and you just might find that new thing you love to do, that keeps you in shape, and saves your life!

And as Hal and Joanne used to say: Get Fit and Have fun!

Happy Training!


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