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Fewer than one in ten Canadian kids is active enough, says ParticipACTION

Canadian children living in poverty

Canadian children living in povertyIt’s a result that might even make bubbly “Body Break” stars Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod brim with anger.

The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card for physical activity in 2016 was released recently and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the fitness levels of Canadian children, with fewer than one in ten meeting the minimum activity requirements suggested by the organization.

The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card was led by Mark Tremblay, Director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and Chief Scientific Officer of the ParticipACTION Report Card. He explained the reasons he thinks the results were so poor.

“Urbanization, mechanization and an increased use of motorized transport have reduced physical activity levels globally,” said Tremblay. “Canada must resist the decline in habitual movement fueled by these trends – and not just by creating policies, strategies, facilities and bike lanes, but also by encouraging and re-establishing Canadian cultural norms where being physically active year round through outdoor play, transportation, recreation and sport, are the Canadian standard, not the exception.”

ParticipACTION is a Canadian national non-profit that was set up the 1970’s to promote fitness. The victim of cutbacks, it was shut down in 2001, but was revived by the federal government in 2007.

Canada ranked 24th overall, scoring a D- on the overall activity list for children aged five to seventeen, which included 37 different countries. Just nine per cent of Canadian children meet the physical activity minimums, which include at least one hour of physical activity daily and less than two hours spent in front of a television screen.

The survey’s top ranking country, Slovenia, found that 86 per cent of boys and 76 per cent of girls reach the recommended daily amount of activity. Primary schools in Slovenia offer 77 minutes of in-school professionally taught physical activity daily.

In 2013, The Canadian Health Measures Survey found the average five to seventeen year-old Canadian spends 8.5 hours being sedentary each day and 31 per cent of school-aged kids and 26 per cent of adolescents in Canada are sleep-deprived.

A fat, inactive population of young people is a problem for most every developed nation on Earth, including our closest neighbours. In the 1970’s, five per cent of young people were obese in Canada compared to 5.6 per cent of those in the United States. Today, those figures are a staggering 13 per cent in Canada and 17.5 per cent in the U.S.

And while the trend seems to have leveled off in the past couple years, Tremblay says we shouldn’t be celebrating the new normal.

“Even if we’re flat-lining, it’s at the highest level ever,” he told the CBC last year. “The cost is enormous in terms of physical, emotional, mental, social impact, which suggests to me more needs to be done.”

One study found that parents may actually be to blame for their kids inactivity. Conduced in North Carolina, it looked at 2700 kids playing in twenty randomly selected parks and found that if an adult was present the kids were much less likely to engage in vigorous activity. Researchers found that parents would promote caution over running and jumping.

“It is something to think about for parents of younger kids,” says Myron Floyd, a professor in the North Carolina State University’s who designs parks for children.. “Free play is very important to young kids developmentally – socially, cognitively and of course physically.”

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