Research demonstrates that recreation, active living and sport contribute to the physical and mental well-being of individuals, families and communities.


Research shows that participation in recreation, active living and sport contribute not only to the physical health of individuals, but also to their mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

Research shows that active living can help people live longer and enjoy a better quality of life (including more prolonged independent living, better vitality, cognitive and functional capacity) as they age.

The positive association between physical activity and chronic disease prevention may lead to a reduction in obesity and a decreased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, various types of cancer, osteoporosis and stroke.

Chronic diseases and injuries are leading causes of death, illness and disability in Alberta, and contribute to significant health care system costs.

The Active Alberta policy will contribute to improved health and well-being for all Albertans, so that they enjoy the benefits of being active.


Research shows that children who are more physically active, and demonstrate strong physical literacy, show greater perceptual skills and achieve higher grades in school. Other benefits of increasing physical activity during school hours include higher self-esteem, self-confidence, team and leadership skills, all of which help to develop resilience.

There is evidence that health and educational benefits can be achieved by school communities through proven approaches such as comprehensive school health, active transportation, daily physical activity and quality daily physical education. In health-promoting schools, a whole school approach is adopted where students, teachers, parents and community groups work together to create a healthy school environment.

Students who participate in sports at school are less likely to smoke or use illegal drugs, and are more likely to stay in school. They tend to have higher grades, higher educational aspirations and fewer discipline problems at school. Students who participate in extracurricular sports during high school are more likely to have a job at the age of 24.

Sports programs have also been seen to benefit youth at risk: by helping them to develop skills such as time management, the ability to accept criticism, and cooperation with others. Participation in recreation and sports has been shown to lead to improved behaviour and higher achievement at school, and improved self esteem.

Outdoor activity:

Research suggests that being outdoors has a positive environmental influence on physical, mental and emotional health for people of all ages. Outdoor activity reduces the amount of sedentary time people spend indoors in front of screens, or riding in vehicles. Observational studies of children show a positive association between time outdoors, and physical activity. Community design and transportation planning influence the use of active transportation (e.g. walking and cycling) to get to school and work.

There is a growing body of research supporting the idea that access to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. Research suggests that living closer to natural environments encourages physical activity and strengthens community by connecting families and neighbours. Providing opportunities for people to be active in unstructured natural environments enhances their physical and emotional health.

Community design and transportation systems have a notable impact on how readily families can be active outdoors in natural environments.


Spectators and participants at sport and recreation events generate economic activity both locally and throughout the province. In 1997, a Government of Canada Study of Sport in Canada estimated that sport accounted for $4 billion in tourism expenditures. In addition to these direct and indirect economic benefits, these events broadcast to the world that Alberta is a world-class tourism destination.

The combined budgets of national and provincial sport organization offices based in Alberta exceeds $100 million annually, which generates economic benefits throughout the economy, and also brings extensive high quality sport development and sport-science expertise into the province.

In 2006, an Alberta Recreation and Parks Association study estimated the sport and recreation expenditures by households, governments and private industry to be approximately $2.8 billion in 2001. The same study found that the sector supports an estimated employment impact of 34,000 full-time equivalent jobs in Alberta and generates more than $1 billion in labour income.

Crime prevention & reduction:

Research shows that increased access to community recreation, active living and sport opportunities contributes positively toward creating communities that are safer, more socially cohesive and engaged. For example, research suggests that participation in after-school programs by youth at risk can lead to reduced crime and violence. Increasing recreation, active living and sport choices for youth provides a constructive alternative for their spare time, and fosters improved self-esteem, leadership and team skills, and improved academic performance.

According to many criminology experts, the most effective approach to reducing youth crime is to steer young people away from negative social activities before they become involved in criminal activities.

Healthy Communities:

Albertans live, work and learn in various types of communities: neighbourhood communities, workplace communities and school communities.

Adults spend the majority of their waking hours in workplaces. Workers have been shown to benefit from healthy workplace policies through fewer disability days, reduced accidents, and lower worker compensation costs.

Research shows that outdoor spaces and the opportunities for active living that they provide help to strengthen communities and neighbourhoods. Studies show that social interaction is more likely to take place in a green space such as a park rather than in a barren space.

A study of women suffering from social isolation has shown that involvement in recreation is an effective way of reducing that isolation. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that recreation programs are an excellent way to bring diverse population groups together in a shared activity, thus increasing understanding and building bridges between different communities.

Research shows that school communities can contribute to health and well-being of students, teachers, parents, and to leadership development in the broader community through before and after-school programs.

Furthermore, community leaders are developed through recreation, active living, and sport. Community involvement in after-school recreation programs has been identified as a promising practice for stimulating youth engagement, team building and leadership development.

Last reviewed/revised: December 9, 2013