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The impact of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on population level physical activity and sport participation among Canadian children and adolescents: population based study

Cora L Craig12 and Adrian E Bauman1*

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health, School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, 2006, NSW, Australia

2 201-185 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, K1S2J8, Ontario, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:107  doi:10.1186/s12966-014-0107-y

Published: 3 September 2014

Abstract

Background

There has been much debate about the potential impact of the Olympics. The purpose of this study was to determine if hosting the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games (OG) encouraged Canadian children to be physically active.

Methods

Children 5–19 years (n = 19862) were assessed as part of the representative Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth surveillance study between August 2007 and July 2011. Parents were asked if the child participated in organized physical activity or sport. In addition, children wore pedometers for 7 days to objectively provide an estimate of overall physical activity. Mean steps/day and percent participating in organized physical activity or sport were calculated by time period within year for Canada and British Columbia. The odds of participation by time period were estimated by logistic regression, controlling for age and sex.

Results

Mean steps were lower during the Olympic period compared with Pre- (607 fewer steps/day 95% CI 263–950 steps/day) and Post-Olympic (1246 fewer steps 95% CI 858–1634 steps) periods for Canada. There was no difference by time period in British Columbia. A similar pattern in mean steps by time period was observed across years, but there were no significant differences in activity within each of these periods between years. The likelihood of participating in organized physical activity or sport by time period within or across years did not differ from baseline (August-November 2007).

Conclusion

The 2010 Olympic Games had no measurable impact on objectively measured physical activity or the prevalence of overall sports participation among Canadian children. Much greater cross-Government and long-term efforts are needed to create the conditions for an Olympic legacy effect on physical activity.

Keywords:
Physical activity; Public health; Evaluation; Epidemiology