Reaching out through ParticipACTION

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  • Title: Reaching out through ParticipACTION: Canadian Federal Support of the Fitness Promotion Organization, 1971–2001
  • Author(s): Zachary Consitt
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Sport and Society
  • Keywords: ParticipACTION, Cultural Diplomacy, National Unity, Fitness, Sport for Development, Soft Power, Disciplined Society
  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 2
  • Date: May 06, 2024
  • ISSN: 2152-7857 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2152-7865 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Consitt, Zachary. 2024. "Reaching out through ParticipACTION: Canadian Federal Support of the Fitness Promotion Organization, 1971–2001." The International Journal of Sport and Society 15 (2): 173-194. doi:10.18848/2152-7857/CGP/v15i02/173-194.
  • Extent: 22 pages

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Between 1971 and 2001, the Government of Canada supported the national fitness promotion organization, ParticipACTION. The federal government invested in ParticipACTION to bring Canadians together and reduce healthcare costs caused by a sedentary lifestyle by encouraging the public to participate in fitness activities. By funding ParticipACTION as an arm’s length not-for-profit organization, the federal government deployed soft power instead of coercive manipulation to persuade the population to improve their fitness. However, ParticipACTION contributed toward creating a disciplined society by asking Canadians to make informed decisions to change their lifestyle habits. ParticipACTION’s mandate was to advertise the benefits of healthy and active lifestyles for Canadians, young and old. It used a proactive strategy to educate, motivate, and guide Canadians along the path to healthy, active lifestyles as a form of preventive medicine. ParticipACTION developed creative public service announcements and community events to get Canadians moving in simple ways, such as walking, running, swimming, or biking in the workplace, school, home, or park. For thirty years, ParticipACTION’s logo and message became widely recognizable across Canada and motivated millions to leave their homes to get active together. By 2001, ParticipACTION was forced to close after the federal government severely reduced its funding in favor of high-performance sports. This article analyzes the federal cultural and medical objectives to invest in ParticipACTION, the organization’s creative marketing strategy, and the influence of the organization on a generation of Canadians.