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Physical activity and health: Finding the right prescription

This release is available in French.

Saskatoon (November 3, 2008) We all know physical activity is good for you. But why exactly is it good for you? What effect does exercise have on the cells and tissues of the body? What do we need to know so that we can use physical activity more effectively to combat chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease? And what social and psychological factors prevent people from exercising or playing sports?

These are just some of the questions that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Musculoskeletal and Arthritis (IMHA) will tackle over the next five years through its strategic plan unveiled today at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

"As Canada's population ages and grows, the burden of arthritis, osteoporosis, and other musculoskeletal, oral and skin conditions on our health care system will increase," said Dr. Jane E. Aubin, IMHA's Scientific Director. "We want to reduce this burden and improve the health and quality of life of Canadians of all ages by supporting research that increases our understanding of the relationship between physical activity, mobility and health."

Over the next five years, the Institute will work with its partners to fund peer-reviewed research and training projects in the area of physical activity and health. This research may range from the cellular behavior of joint tissues to the psychosocial aspects of exercise, activity and sports on populations. Specific activities may include:

  • Investigating the prevention or reversal of disease through physical activity and mobility.
  • Applying physical medicine and rehabilitative strategies to tissue injuries in order to restore maximal function.
  • Investigating issues related to access and delivery of health services and treatments that enhance physical activity, mobility and health.
  • Examining the personal and environmental factors that influence the uptake and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Evaluating mechanisms for translating evidence into sustainable public policy.

The Institute will also promote the application of the research results into new physical activity policies and programs in collaboration with partners and communities.

"I commend IMHA for choosing physical activity as a strategic research priority," said Dr. Karen Chad, Acting Vice-President Research at the U of S. "As a physical activity researcher, I know first hand the positive effect of regular exercise on health and quality of life. We have had tremendous success in getting people in Saskatchewan moving through our award-winning Saskatoon in motion project."

With a team of researchers drawn from the U of S, the Saskatoon Health Region, the City of Saskatoon and ParticiPACTION, Dr. Chad led a CIHR-funded project that became the research arm for the in motion health promotion strategy aimed at encouraging all citizens to make regular physical exercise part of their daily lives. The impact of in motion stretches far beyond Saskatchewan. The program has become a model for communities across Canada. The in motion team has won local, national and international awards for their achievements.

While putting its focus on physical activity and mobility, IMHA will continue to support researchers working in the six areas that comprise its research community: arthritis, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, bone, skeletal muscle, skin and oral health, working not only in physical activity and mobility, but also in pain, disability and chronic disease, and tissue injury, repair and replacement. By funding excellent research in these areas, IMHA hopes to create knowledge that will help Canadians lead healthier and more active lives.


Contact: Andrew McColgan
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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