09/17/2011 08:54 EDT | Updated 11/17/2011 05:12 EST

Happy Sports Day, Canada!


With the Ontario elections taking place on October 6, 2011, the Ontario Medical Association has been pushing for health care to become an election priority. And rightfully so!

We have an epidemic problem of obesity among Canadian children. Our health care is being stretched thin by these demands. Come on Canada, we have to do better.

A part of the Ontario Medical Association's campaign includes making physical education mandatory throughout high school. To which I applaud and give a standing ovation.

I am an Olympian, a Team Visa athlete and the 2010 Commonwealth Champion in Athletics in high jump. Indeed, I am passionate about sports and being physically active, yet not because of the medals I've won, but more importantly because of the positive influence sports has provided me off the track.

Ironically, it's these superlative benefits that sports offer which are often not recognized or understood. And this concerns me.

For if we did, would physical education be required only once in high school, when enough research has shown that if you can keep kids active throughout high school they are more likely to have a life committed to physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviour? And that these students would also be more likely to achieve a higher level of education, be involved in their community, and would be less likely to engage in risky behaviour such as smoking, crimes and drugs?

Is there possibly a dollar amount that can be placed on the value of sports? I think not. Sport promotes learning capacity, confidence, resiliency and the empowerment of human excellence. As an athlete and doctoral candidate, I know first hand the power that sport has played in my life.

But, beyond its influence on education and excelling in life, sport promotes health. Health may just be the single most important thing anyone can own in their lifetime, yet, its value is often not realized until it's gone. Stroke, diabetes, heart disease and the various forms of cancers are all examples where the adoption of sports and physical activity can prevent their occurrence. Far too many Canadians are expiring long before their time is up, simply because they've adopted an unhealthy lifestyle.

Canadians rightfully share a concern for our once lauded healthcare system which is now under immense strain. Each of us must recognize the role we each play in adding to the pressure of a system that is about to burst and contribute to the solution.

While some have suggested a junk food or fat tax as one solution, I don't believe the solution needs to be costly or difficult. It can be cheap, easy and fun. I'm talking about getting involved in sports as a country. It's time we as Canadians begin to be proactive instead of symptomatic in our approach to healthcare in Canada.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 Sports Day in Canada is taking place to celebrate the power of sports. Anyone and everyone can get involved, simply by checking out and finding a local event. In its second year in existence, it excites me to be a part of this event once again.

I believe in a healthier Canada and I believe in the power of sports to facilitate this.

The benefits of physical activity and sports extend far beyond the podium. It builds a better and stronger Canada.

A version of this article originally appeared on CBC Sports Day in Canada.