Female runner

Where does the time go? Most trends show that the population is not getting any healthier despite the fact that it may seem like we have free time on our hands.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults between the ages of 18 to 64 should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity throughout the week. Some of that should be devoted to a more vigorous levels of effort and ideally, a person could increase this to 300 minutes of exercise a week, or 43 minutes a day. If you exercise for less than 22 minutes a day, you’re falling short of basic health guidelines.

RELATED: Time hacks for runners to fit in the workout

What do Canadians spend their time doing?

That may seem easy enough to fit in such a small amount of exercise into the day. Thirty minutes accounts for only two per cent of the day. But let’s take a closer look at a day in the life of an average Canadian. According to Statistics Canada, activities can be broken down into eight hours for sleeping, 10 hours of paid and unpaid work (including commuting, cooking and chores), three and a half hours of relaxed leisure, two hours for meals and finally, active leisure, which accounts for a mere 30 minutes per day.

Keep in mind a couple things. One, we could combine these last three categories to get around six hours of leisure time. Two, note that the definitions for each of these categories is loose.

A more specific look at the numbers

The average Canadian spends about five and a half hours  on leisure every day. Looking at the numbers, men had more free time than women, at 348 minutes versus 312. (I find that gender gap of 36 minutes a day to be rather significant. Women earn, on average, about 83 per cent of what men take home. Thankfully wage gaps are shrinking, but this shows that the ‘leisure gap’ has not.) The amount of free time a person has tends to decrease with age, from more than six hours for teenagers, to less than five hours for those aged 35 to 55. These numbers have remained stable for at least 30 years.

What do we use our leisure hours for? Sure, there’s the fun stuff like social events, reading and watching TV. But oftentimes, necessary activities like spending time with your spouse or family can’t be replaced. And about 40 per cent of Canadians’ leisure hours are used for essential commitments. Yet, that still means that Canadians have (on average) three hours a day of ‘free time.’


Most choose not to use this time for fitness. In fact, only 15 per cent of this time is allocated to physical activity. For individuals who are committed to the workout though, they spend an average of an hour and 45 minutes a day keeping fit (keep in mind that changing and travel time would be included).

Based on my own experience, it’s hard to have meaningful bout of exercise without allocating at least 90 minutes to it. Only one in four adults in Canada, accomplishes this goal.

The numbers don’t lie: Canadian do have time for fitness. A mere increase of two per cent more total time spend active would double our current totals. There are certainly thousands of excuses not to do the workout, but there’s just as many solutions to get it done. There’s always the option of merging activities. Perhaps aim to socialize through group sports. Or find personal time though solo running.

What are your tips for fitting in the run?

RELATED: How running to and from work saves time for being a better dad. 

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