Edmonton loses health Battle of Alberta

SHAWN LOGAN, SPECIAL TO SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Edmonton is quickly becoming the City of Chomp-ions compared to its southern neighbour.

According to Statistics Canada's 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey, released exclusively to Sun Media, Edmontonians are less physically active, more stressed and more likely to indulge in booze and smokes than their Calgary counterparts.

The national survey of 65,000 respondents ranked Edmonton as 14th on the list of healthiest Canadian cities, behind Cowtown's seventh-place showing.

Edmontonians hit the national average of physically active Canadians at 50.6% but fell behind Calgary which saw 56.1% of its residents make the grade.

Of those residing in the provincial capital, 18.1% were daily smokers compared to the national average (16.8%) and well above those in Calgary (13.6%).

And binge drinking was also a popular pastime in Edmonton, scraping just below the national average (16.6%) of those who reported downing five or more drinks on more than one occasion per month over the last year while surpassing Calgary (15.5%).

Coun. Kim Krushell, an avid runner, said she doesn't believe Edmontonians are by and large an unhealthy lot but said the numbers should be a call for residents to get up off the couch.

"Really what this tells us is this is a challenge to Edmonton to get out more and get active," she said.

"We do have a lot of active Edmontonians and we know we've got to focus on the children and that's what we're doing."

Krushell said Calgary has some clear advantages with climate, and facilities left over from the 1988 Winter Olympics, but Edmonton is now pushing a number of healthy initiatives including its Child Friendly Edmonton strategy.

Coun. Bryan Anderson, who was a high school physical education teacher and coached football and basketball for 34 years, said Calgary has the edge in demographics on average being younger, better educated and earning more money.

But Edmonton is investing millions in new recreation centres, arenas and other facilities to hopefully provide more healthy opportunities for all age groups.

"It's not all that surprising to see these numbers, but we've just started to add all the facilities that we need to have," Anderson said.

"It's not going to happen immediately but this is a city and a council that recognizes the importance of providing these opportunities."

The sedentary lifestyle has placed Edmonton ahead of the national curve in high blood pressure (24.4% between 45 and 54 and 49.8% over 65), arthritis (24.6%) and diabetes (10.7%).

Meanwhile, some 32.1% of respondents aged between 35 and 44 and 25.4% between 45 and 64 report having high stress levels, surpassing Calgary in both demographics.


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