New research shows program effective in helping teens overcome barriers to being active.

TORONTO, 1/7/15 –New research on the ParticipACTION Teen Challenge, sponsored by Coca-Cola Canada, provides evidence that small, targeted investments of just $250 to $500 can help break down the barriers that prevent teens from getting active.

The study, conducted by leading Canadian physical activity researchers, revealed that flexible microgrants can lead to numerous benefits beyond physical activity. They can provide exposure to new activities, develop teens’ physical abilities, and change the way they view and feel about themselves – helping build self-esteem, confidence, leadership and social skills. There were many benefits to the organizations and communities that received the grants, including building and strengthening partnerships within the community, furthering credibility and creating lasting legacy. To date, ParticipACTION Teen Challenge has encouraged over 350,000 teens and 4,500 community organizations to work together to design local activities.

“Activity levels drop among Canadian kids in the teen years, and only four per cent of kids aged 12-17 are getting enough heart-pumping activity each day,” says Dr. John Spence, professor at the University of Alberta and senior author of the new research.

“ParticipACTION Teen Challenge shows that modest grants can have positive impacts on teen participants and the wider community, and could play an important role in promoting and enabling physical activity across the wider population.”

ParticipACTION Teen Challenge provides unique ways for 13-19 year-olds to get active in their communities, because the teens help design the programs and events that get funded. Microgrants have paid for everything from basketball coaches to breakdancing instructors, pedometers for a walking club, transportation to ski hills, prizes for leadership events, tournament entrance fees and necessary equipment, such as Kin-Balls, kayak rentals or team jerseys.

“The beauty of ParticipACTION Teen Challenge is that it empowers teens to be creative and come up with physical activity ideas that suit their own peers, in their own local neighborhoods,” says Elio Antunes, President and CEO of ParticipACTION, the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. “Once they’re keen on participating, regular physical activity can help them do better in school, grow stronger, have fun playing with friends, feel happier, improve their self-confidence and learn new skills. The success of this program underlines that physical activity can do so much good.”

The published research cites examples of teens across Canada who have been personally impacted by participating in the ParticipACTION Teen Challenge:

“Coming from a different country to Canada where things are a lot different, at first I didn’t really know how to engage in some of this stuff, but once I started joining… I kind of gained the confidence that I know I need to live in this foreign country so I kind of developed a lot of confidence and self-esteem,” said one Manitoba teen.

“I was not very energetic at all. I hardly did anything, only walking with my friends and we would talk. That was it…” said a Quebec teen. “But now, things are different. A couple of my friends practice sport a lot, and we’re active. It’s fun like that.”

The aunt of a Newfoundland teen with a disability who participated in a swimming program reported that prior to the program her nephew wouldn’t have been able to participate in an interview about his experiences. “He’s not a loner anymore… this is different, for him to talk to a stranger and answer questions,” she said.

ParticipACTION Teen Challenge is funded by a 10-year, $10 million commitment from Coca-Cola Canada, and is delivered through a unique network of 13 provincial-territorial coordinating organizations, which, in turn, support community organizations at the local level. This network is powerful and, according to the researchers, “how organizations ‘stretched’ the relatively modest grants to achieve their goals and the creativity with which many grants were put to use were both remarkable and innovative.”

“To hear these experts state that our efforts are making physical activity more affordable and accessible confirms that with the right resources and partners, including ParticipACTION, it is possible to move in the right direction to healthier, active lifestyles,” says Krista Scaldwell, Vice President of Public Affairs Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada. “We are proud to help make this community impact possible.”

The complete research paper on ParticipACTION Teen Challenge was published in the journal BMC Public Health and is available online here:

For more information about ParticipACTION Teen Challenge, sponsored by Coca-Cola Canada, including over 500 local teen success stories, please visit

About ParticipACTION

ParticipACTION is the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Originally established in 1971, ParticipACTION was re-launched in 2007 to help prevent the looming inactivity crisis that faces Canada. As a national not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to inspiring and supporting healthy and active living for Canadians, it works with its partners, which include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, to inspire and support Canadians to move more. ParticipACTION is generously supported by Sport Canada. For more information, visit