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Canada's Study on Physical Activity Levels Among Youth-specific Questions

Q: What is the Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY)?

A: The Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study is designed to collect comprehensive and accurate objective information on the physical activity levels of Canadians via pedometers. From 2005 to 2016, the study collects data from children and youth aged 5-19.                                                             

Q: Why do we need it? Could this information not be found in other sources?

A: Objective measurement of physical activity levels is used in this study. In the past we have relied on self-report data. The accuracy of these data is particularly a concern for children and youth who do physical activity in bursts that may not be accurately remembered. With fewer children playing outside, getting physical education and activity opportunities at school, and spending more time watching television and videos and using computers, it is time to get an accurate measure of how much physical activity children and youth are getting.

Q: Who is included in the Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY)?

A: Approximately 10,000 children and youth (approximately 6,000 families) have been selected from across Canada from 2005 until 2016.

Q: Who is conducting the Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY)?

A: The study is being conducted by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing the health and well-being of Canadians through physical activity. The Institute has been conducting national physical activity research since 1981.

Q: Who is paying for the Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY)?

A: The Canadian Study Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY) has been supported financially by the Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments through the Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Q: What kind of information is being sought?

A: The  Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY) is gathering information on the physical activity levels of Canadian children and youth. Objective measures are being taken by pedometers. A pedometer counts steps throughout the day and reports on the total number of steps taken. The brief parent telephone questionnaire for this study will collect data that will allow for grouping of the data by such things as age groups and province or territory of residence, NOT by an individual person or family or school.

Q: Do all members of my family/household have to take part in the study?

A: Although participation is voluntary, we hope that all selected family members will agree to participate. Each selected individual represents many other individuals like them and is difficult to replace.

Q: How long will the Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth Study (CAN PLAY) take?

A: Participants are asked to wear their assigned pedometer every day for 7 consecutive days. Wearing the pedometer will not interfere with daily routines. The telephone questionnaire will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Q: Why was my child chosen?

A: Your child was selected to represent children of the same age and sex, not only in your neighbourhood and community, but also in many neighbourhoods and communities throughout your region.

Q: Does that mean that my name or my child’s name is linked to the survey data?

A: The actual data file which we analyze does not have any identifying information attached to it. It does NOT contain names, telephone numbers, addresses or any other identifying information. The key to this number and your personal information is kept in a separate file and is treated with strict confidentiality and privacy protocols. It is never published or provided to anyone.

Q: What is a pedometer?

A: A pedometer is a simple device used to count the number of steps you take in a day.

Q: How does it work?

A: Basically, a pedometer counts your steps as you walk. When positioned correctly, your pedometer records a step each time your hip moves up and down. Your pedometer also measures things you do throughout your day in addition to walking, (e.g., bending to tie your shoes). Most pedometers have a tiny spring-set horizontal arm that moves up and down as you walk and measures the vertical movement of your hips. Electronic pedometers, like the ones used in this study, can detect the impact of your foot hitting the ground. Essentially, a pedometer is a motion-sensitive electrical circuit that switches on and off, activating a digital counter.

Q: Is it safe to wear?

A: There is no published research on the safety of a pedometer. However, pedometers are being used daily around the world. The only device in a pedometer is a battery. The battery is similar to a watch battery and it is equivalent to wearing a watch. If it is safe for you to wear a watch then it is considered safe to wear a pedometer.

Q: How does my child wear it?

A: Attach the pedometer to your belt or waistband near the front of your hipbone.

Q: I don't think my child’s pedometer is working properly. What should I do?

A: In most cases, problems with pedometers accurately recording steps can be remedied by adjusting how the pedometer is positioned on the body. It's important that the pedometer remain upright because of how the internal mechanism works. If the child’s tummy is pushing the pedometer out of its upright position, it may be getting inaccurate results. Wearing the pedometer on a waistband directly under the armpit may solve this problem.

Q: The pedometer keeps falling off, what do we do?

A: In testing these units we did find that some clothing tended to be more ‘slippery’ than others. A different outfit will probably be more successful. If the child’s tummy is causing the pedometer to be horizontal rather than vertical, this may cause it to pop off as well and it will not read properly in this position. Try moving it more to the side.

Q: Are there times that it shouldn't’ be worn?

A: The pedometer should be worn throughout the day. Your child should just go about the normal daily routine, without thinking about it at all. However, please do not get the pedometer wet; do not wear it when swimming, showering, or playing in sprinklers and the like. Also, if your child plays contact sports, the instructor or coach may ask that it is removed. If for some reason the pedometer wasn't worn, please write us a note on the log form.

Q: My child’s teacher refused to allow my child to wear the pedometer in class?

A: As a first step, please share the teachers’ note that was included in your package with the teacher. However, if the teacher outright refuses to continue to let your child wear it, then just have him wear it at home and on the weekends, if possible, and please indicate what happened on your step log form.

Q: My child was sick and unable to wear the pedometer – what should they do?

A: Sick days are a normal part of children’s routines from time to time. Having no steps on a particular day due to illness is normal and expected. Please note the day(s) of the child’s illness on the log form so that we know he or she was ill and didn’t just forget to wear it. The more information we have about what happened that day, the better able we are to interpret the data.

General survey questions

Q: Why conduct surveys on physical activity?

A: The surveys conducted by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute monitor the physical activity levels of Canadians along with factors that encourage or prevent physical activity. The monitoring of physical activity levels on an annual basis provides current information to federal and provincial policy makers so that they can develop policies and programs that serve the current needs of Canadians.

Q: Who benefits? What impact do the surveys have on individual Canadians?

A: Ultimately, all Canadians benefit. Valid information on the linkages between physical activity, health and well-being helps provincial and federal government departments to improve health and lifestyle programs and respond to real and current needs.

Q: Who uses the information obtained?

A: The primary users of physical activity surveys are provincial and federal departments of health, fitness and recreation, universities, and voluntary fitness and public health agencies.

Q: Who is included in the physical activity surveys?

A: The Physical Activity Monitor, which consists of telephone interviews with a random sample of several thousand Canadians, includes Canadians from every province and territory. Collectively, these respondents represent "average" Canadians.

The Capacity Surveys, also conducted every year, generally collect information by questionnaires mailed out to specific populations of interest. Each population's survey is updated every five years. In recent years, survey questionnaires have been mailed out to municipal administrators, school principals and workplace managers. The samples for these populations are drawn from available databases of these types of institutions.

Q: Why was I chosen? Can't someone else do it?

A: With the exception of the Physical Activity Longitudinal Survey, participants are chosen at random from the Canadian population. The random nature of the selection ensures that the predictions made from the data collected are valid. Over a long period of time, most Canadians will be approached to participate in a survey because samples used in different surveys are selected randomly. Most people cooperate willingly because they realize the importance of statistics in decision-making. The data collected help decision-makers to better serve your needs and your community. 

Q: Is my name attached to my responses? Can my answers be identified back to me?

A: The data analyzed do not have any information that identifies respondents. The analysis data keep only general demographic information such as a respondent's age and province of residence so we can group the responses of people who belong to a certain group together. Data are only reported in this grouped format. These types of groupings are not enough to identify a respondent.

Q: How long does it take to complete the surveys?

A: The telephone interviews of the Physical Activity Monitor are designed to take about 20 minutes. The written questionnaires of the Capacity Surveys are designed to take an average of one half hour.

Q: What is a sample survey?

A: A sample survey is a process by which information relevant to a large number of people is obtained by collecting data from a small, scientifically selected, representative group. The data from the small group are extrapolated to the large group. This approach substantially reduces the cost of obtaining data, since we do not have to carry out a whole census.

Q: If the respondent's answers are not totally accurate, what good are they?

A: We ask all respondents to answer the questions to the best of their ability. It is possible that some of the estimates made by the respondents are on the high side, while others are on the low side. Overall, these generally tend to balance each other out.

Q: What will I get out of the surveys?

A: In supplying valuable information to the survey, you will be helping federal, provincial and local government agencies to decide what facilities and programs will best serve you and your community.

Q: Are the surveys confidential?

A: Yes, all the information collected is strictly confidential and no unauthorized person will see your results at any time. Staff from the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute follow the confidentiality guidelines of Statistics Canada in dealing with data and are bound by the Privacy Act.

Q: What if I'm not in good health/ not very fit/ very old?

A: We collect information on the health and lifestyle needs of ALL Canadians. You are important to this survey because you represent the "average" Canadian as much as any other individual. Your answers to the survey questionnaire are very important in learning about the activities and attitudes of your age group and of people who share your fitness level and health status.