Canadian Kids Fail at Physical Activity

Canadian Kids Fail at Physical Activity

Active Healthy Kids Canada released its report on the daily physical activity of Canadian children and youth. The results are not good.

Active Healthy Kids Canada (AHKC) released a report today failing Canadian youths on their daily physical activity. Only seven percent of children and youth are meeting Canada’s guidelines for a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

According to the report, despite 92 percent of children saying they would choose playing with friends over watching television, they end up spending 63 percent of their free time after school and on weekends being sedentary.

Aside from the overall failing grade for Canadian children and youths, AHKC provided grades for different aspects of daily life.

Active Play and Leisure and Screen-Based Sedentary Behaviours

AHKC assigned failing grades to the categories Active Play & Leisure and Screen-Based Sedentary Behaviours. These grades were based on the fact that 46 percent of kids between six and 11 get three hours or less of active play (unstructured physical activity) per week, including weekends. Also, children and youth get an average of seven hours and 48 minutes of time in front of a screen per day. Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day.

The report cites the emergence of over-protective parenting forcing children into highly controlled environments—built with a focus on screen technology—as a force limiting opportunities for active play.

Active Transportation and Family Physical Activity

Canadian kids also received D+ grades for Active Transportation and Family Physical Activity. According to the report, only 35 percent of kids aged 10 to 16 use active transportation to get to school. These habits peak at age 10 and then decline as they get older. Only 15 percent of Canadian adults meet the minimum requirement of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, and only 38 percent of Canadian parents say they often play active games with their children.

Importance of play

According to AHKC, play has been shown to foster and improve:

  • motor functions
  • creativity
  • decision-making
  • problem-solving
  • executive functions—the ability to control and direct one’s emotions and behaviours
  • social skills—sharing, taking turns, helping others, resolving conflict
  • speech (in preschoolers)

Getting kids active

Kids in their early years

  • Provide access to safe, open areas, either indoors or out, where kids can move freely.
  • Give them balls and toys to encourage more vigorous play at home and in child care settings.
  • Get down on the floor and play with them!

School-age children

  • Provide access to fields, nature, skipping ropes, balls, and equipment.
  • Take turns with other parents/caregivers in supervising kids playing in the park or on the block.
  • Encourage kids to play outside with a friend.
  • Accept that tweens and teens need free time to play without the assumption they are “up to no good.”
  • Encourage youth-friendly play spaces where youth can hang out and direct their own activities.

Kids of all ages

  • If your child has no free time, consider reducing the number of scheduled activities.
  • Increase neighbourhood safety by advocating for traffic-reduction measures such as speed bumps and roundabouts.
  • Reduce screen time by encouraging time spent outdoors.

Read more about the benefits of play.

And don’t forget, even adults need time to play.

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