The Content, Activities, and Settings of Leisure as Sources of Physical Inactivity: Changes in North America since 1970

Brent M. Berry, University of Toronto

What explains declining physical activity in recent decades? Hypothesis: the content, activities and settings of leisure have changed and diversified, producing economic, social and spatial barriers, effectively lowering barriers to sedentary forms of leisure while increasing the cost of more active ones. Longitudinal time-use and industry data support three conclusions. 1)the activities people do most often make fewer demands on physical exertion than 30 years ago, reflecting a shifting emphasis from collective experiences in pubic settings to individualized experiences in private settings. 2)the growth and diversification of content delivered through television/computers has far outstripped leisure choices outside the home. 3)price gradients across the range of routine activities and their settings have changed, with government incentives contributing to lower barriers to sedentary activities and heightening barriers for more active ones. Overall, these changing incentives and content of leisure activity have likely harmed population health by contributing to inequalities in physical activity.

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Presented in Session 73: Obesity and Inactivity: Trends and Consequences