Age, sex, geographic and temporal trends in leisure-time physical activity levels were examined using data from five national surveys conducted between 1981 and 1998. Physical activity energy expenditure (AEE) was higher among men compared to women, and in younger versus older adults. AEE increased from Eastern to Western Canada, with a significant temporal trend of increasing AEE. The prevalence of physical inactivity (expending <12.6 kJ x kg(-1) x day(-1) has decreased; however, it remains high (women: 77%; men: 74%). The high prevalence of physical inactivity emphasizes the importance of population-level physical activity surveillance and interventions.