A personal perspective on a half-century of health and fitness in Canada





Consensus recommendations, Exercise clearance, Exercise prescription, Fitness surveys, Fitness research units, Health promotion, Motivation, Physical activity, Sedentary behaviour


Objectives: To summarize personal impressions of Canadian research on health and fitness between the mid 1960s and 2017.  Methods: A review of personal files and published articles, supplemented by correspondence with colleagues. Results: Canadian interest in health and fitness was triggered in the 1960s by remarks from the Duke of Edinburgh, the passage of Federal Bill C-131, the establishment of 3 Fitness Research Units, the hosting of an International Symposium on Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health, and the foundation of the Canadian Association of Sports Sciences. Early Canadian initiatives in health and fitness included standardizing fitness testing, surveying population fitness, introducing exercise clearance procedures, exploring determinants of aerobic function, evaluating the hunter-gatherer idyll, seeking to motivate population interest in a healthier lifestyle, and presentation of the resulting findings to international meetings both in Canada and overseas. A broadening of perspectives brought administrative changes to health and fitness programmes, with the appearance of specialist publications, a growing appreciation of economic dividends from a healthy society, and a focussing of attention upon the  activity needs of  women, children, the elderly, and those with chronic disease or disability. During the 1990s, the Canadian hosting of consensus conferences on health and fitness led to growing international acceptance of the "exercise is medicine" concept, and the emergence of evidence-based recommendations for exercise clearance and daily physical activity in both healthy individuals and those with various clinical conditions. Conclusions: The promotion of regular physical activity is now an important corner stone of health policy. However, there remains a need to define more precisely the optimal intensity, frequency and duration of exercise needed in a variety of clinical conditions, and to relate these findings to the individual's quality adjusted life expectancy rather than simply mortality. 

Author Biography

Roy J. Shephard, University of Toronto

Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto




How to Cite

Shephard, R. J. (2017). A personal perspective on a half-century of health and fitness in Canada. The Health & Fitness Journal of Canada, 10(2), 21–76. https://doi.org/10.14288/hfjc.v10i2.231




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