This week in Toronto, leading researchers and practitioners from around the world are gathering for the 2014 Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children.
On the opening day, Active Healthy Kids Canada, the non-profit producing the conference released their 2014 report card on physical activity for children and youth.
The report card is made up of a variety of factors that are taken together to form our overall physical activity grade of D-. You can see how Canada compares to other world nations in the graphic below.
Here is the “good news” that came out of the report card, as a country we received the following grades:
- C+ for “organized sport participation”: Our kids are participating in organized sports and activities.
- C for “family and peers”: As parents we’re investing in our kids physical activity by paying for sports and activities, equipment, driving them to their games, and coaching their teams.
- C+ for “school”: Many schools in Canada have created pro-physical activity environments where kids have access to playgrounds, gymnasiums, and 55% have a policy in place for daily physical activity.
- C for “government strategies and investments”: Our governments have begun to prioritize investing in kids’ physical activity with 12 out of 13 provinces/territories having established or developing initiatives that promote physical activity for kids in the after school hours.
- B+ for “community and the built environment”: Most Canadians feel their kids have access to playgrounds, walking paths, arenas, etc. right in their immediate communities.
So where as a nation are we going so wrong?
- We got a D in “active transportation”: Kids need at least an hour a day of vigorous physical activity (180 minutes for 3–4 year olds) but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. If they walk or bike to school they can make a serious dent in that hour. Only 24% of Canadian kids aged 5–17 walk or wheel to/from school.
- We got an F in “sedentary behaviours”: Kids age 3–4 spend 5.8 hours a day being sedentary, those aged 5–11 spend 7.6 hours, and those aged 12–17 spend 9.3 hours.
- We got an incomplete in “active play”: Kids may be participating in organized activities but these don’t add up to give them enough physical activity per week. And because they are so busy sitting at home and in cars, and in organized activities, they aren’t playing.
This report card paints such a clear picture of what’s happening in our society and its detrimental effect on our children.
But maybe the most important question is this: Why aren’t kids getting enough activity?
We think it’s because kids don’t get a chance to learn to move; they don’t become physically literate. If we help our kids learn movement skills then physical activity becomes easier, it becomes fun, and kids will want to be more active.
We don’t have to accept the status quo. There are things we can do to improve. We can play with our kids, we can be active with them and not just drive them to games and watch. We can slow down the structured activities so our kids have time for active, outdoor play, and we can get them out of the cars and using their own two feet.
We owe it to our kids and grandkids to make positive changes in their lives today that will help them grow up to be healthy, productive members of our community tomorrow. All the resources you need to make these changes are right here and we are here to support you.
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Editor’s note: This article was revised slightly on May 22, 2014, to include information about the importance of physical literacy.