Tracking health through daily movement behaviour: data blog:

A snapshot of daily movement behaviours among Canadian children, youth and adults, using the Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep (PASS) Indicators.

  • Last updated: 2023-08-24

We live our days in a 24-hour cycle. Most of that time is spent in intervals of physical activity, sedentary behaviour (like sitting and screen time) and sleep. The Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep (PASS) Indicators, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in 2017, track indicators that highlight these different components of daily activity. This framework reports on a range of indicators and measures focused on individual behaviours, the social environment and the built environment and gives an overall picture of “how active Canadians are”. The 2023 edition of the PASS Indicators provides access to 61 unique indicators among children/youth and adults, this information can be used to develop evidence-based policies and programs for a healthy and active Canadian population.

Physical activity

Canadian adults ages 18 years and older should accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per week to achieve optimum health benefits and protect against chronic diseases.Footnote 1 About half (49.2%) of Canadian adults get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Similarly, only 43.9% of Canadian children and youth get the recommended amount of physical activity per day. For optimal health benefits, Canadian children and youth ages 5 to 17 years should accumulate an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per day.Footnote 2

Sedentary behaviour

On average, Canadian adults spend 9.6 hours of their day sedentary, including 3.2 hours per day engaging in leisure screen time. Fewer than 1 in 5 (19.1%) Canadian adults meet current sedentary behaviour recommendations. To minimize poor health outcomes, adults should limit daily sedentary time to 8 hours or less per day with no more than 3 hours of leisure screen time.Footnote 1Activities that require very little movement, such as sitting or reclining, are called sedentary behaviours. Common sedentary behaviours include watching TV, sitting at a desk, or driving in an automobile. Research shows that sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of chronic disease and other poor health outcomes.Footnote 3

Canadian children and youth spend approximately 8.4 hours of their day sedentary including 3.8 hours of leisure screen time. Only about half (53.3%) of Canadian children and youth meet current sedentary behaviour recommendations. To achieve optimal health and minimize negative health outcomes, children and youth should engage in no more than 2 hours per day of leisure screen time.Footnote 2


Canadian adults get an average of 8.0 hours of sleep per night and 72.7% meet current sleep recommendations. Canadian adults ages 18 to 64 years should obtain 7 to 9 hours of good-quality sleep on a regular basis and adults ages 65 years and older should obtain 7 to 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.Footnote 1 Sleep supports healthy brain function and plays a vital role in good health and well-being. Insufficient sleep has been associated with various negative health outcomes, including chronic diseases, poor mental health and increased chance of death.Footnote 4

Canadian children and youth get an average of 9.0 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period and 70.7% meet current sleep recommendations. Canadian children ages 5 to 13 years should obtain 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night and youth ages 14 to 17 years should obtain 8 to 10 hours per night.Footnote 2


Only 1 in 20 (5.9%) Canadian adults meet all three of the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines’ recommendations: physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. Similarly, fewer than 1 in 10 (9.5%) children and youth meet all three recommendations.

Canadians are active at home, at work and in their communities. Monitoring movement behaviours in specific environments gives us a clearer picture of what is going on.

Active travel: In 2021, 2 in 5 (41.7%) Canadian adults and 3 in 5 (61.0%) youth report using active ways like walking or cycling to get to places such as work or school. Compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of youth engaging in active transportation has significantly declined by 14.7 percentage points (75.6% in 2018 vs. 60.9% in 2021). Using active modes of transportation, such as walking or cycling, provides an important opportunity for Canadians to be active and increase their overall level of physical activity, while also improving cardiorespiratory fitness.Footnote 5

Sport participation and free play: Organized sport can provide important opportunities for children and youth to achieve physical activity. Physical activity can also be accumulated through unstructured free play during leisure time. About half of children and youth (54.4%) participated in organized sports with a coach or instructor in the past week and reported an average of 2.8 hours of organized sport per week. Two thirds of children (68.1%) reported 3 hours or less per week of unstructured free play outside of school and youth reported an average of 2.4 hours per week participating in outdoor physical activity during their free time. Regularly participating in sports (organized or free play) is associated with higher levels of physical activity, lower levels of sedentary behaviour and overall better mental health outcomes in children and youth.Footnote 6Footnote 7

Use of electronic media in the bedroom: About 2 in 3 (65.4%) Canadian adults report having an electronic device such as a cellphone, television or computer in their bedroom while sleeping and 66.4% report using electronic devices within 30 minutes of falling asleep. Over 2 in 5 (45.3%) Canadian children and youth report using electronic devices in the bedroom before falling asleep. Using electronic devices before bedtime can increase cognitive activity and make it difficult to relax and fall asleep, this can lead to poor sleep quality.Footnote 8Footnote 9

The PASS Indicators recognize that some broader factors, like family relationships and societal norms, as well as how communities are built (for example, bike lanes and access to parks), all have an impact on a person’s daily activities.

Physical activity and the family/social environment: About 1 in 3 (35.4%) Canadian youth report that they do physical activity with their parents at least weekly and about half (57.5%) report that their close friends are involved in physical activity on a regular basis. Parental and peer support, including role modelling, material support and encouragement have been associated with greater participation, enjoyment, and confidence in physical activity among youth.Footnote 10Footnote 11Footnote 12Footnote 13

Access to parks and recreational facilities: The majority of Canadians (87.4% of adults and 90.0% of youth) report that their neighbourhood has several free or low-cost recreational facilities such as parks, walking trails, bike paths, recreation centers, playgrounds, or public swimming pools. Having accessible facilities (in terms of location and cost) helps increase the physical activity of Canadians.

For an overview of all the healthy living indicators reported on in the PASS Indicators see the PASS Quick Stats page. To view additional indicators and each indicator by sociodemographic characteristics such as sex, age group, education, household income, cultural/racial background, Indigenous identity, and immigrant status please visit the PASS Data Tool page.

The PASS Indicators are intended to support a comprehensive surveillance of movement behaviours in Canada. In addition to the indicators currently in the PASS framework, new indicators will be released as appropriate measures and data sources are identified, such as physical literacy, presence and types of barriers for physical activity, community walkability, workplace sedentary time, awareness about sleep benefits and several more. Adapting existing data sources or developing new sources of information and measurement tools will be important to fill current data gaps and improve our reporting.

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