A man and children are silhouetted while standing in the waters of Semiahmoo Bay as rain clouds move into the area in White Rock

A man and children are silhouetted while standing in the waters of Semiahmoo Bay as rain clouds move into the area in White Rock

Kids’ activity levels in Canada lagging: report

Physical activity levels of Canadian kids lags behind global pack, report finds

  • May. 20, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press

TORONTO – While many Canadian kids play sports and have access to parks and playgrounds, a new report has given them a D minus grade when it comes to physical activity targets.

For the first time, Active Healthy Kids Canada used its annual Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth to see how Canadians measured up to kids in 14 other countries.

Canada trailed near the back of the international pack for overall physical levels along with Australia, Ireland, and the U.S., while Scotland received an “F.”

Despite the presence of established policies, places and programs designed to help kids get moving, the report pointed to what was described as a “culture of convenience” to account for why many Canadian kids aren’t more active.

“It could be tempting to think that: ‘My kid plays soccer so he’s active enough,’ or: ‘My child gets what she needs at school.’ These things are important and they do count — however it’s not enough,” said ParticipAction president and CEO Elio Antunes.

“If we just thought twice about jumping in the car for trips of less than one kilometre or encourage our kids to go outside more often where they are naturally inclined to move more without even thinking about it, our kids would be more active overall.”

The report found that 84 per cent of Canadian three-to-four-year-olds met early years guidelines of at least 180 minutes of daily physical activity at any intensity. But it was a far more grim picture for older children, with only seven per cent of five- to 11-year-olds and four per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds in Canada meeting recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.

Walking quickly, skating and bike riding are examples of moderate activities, while running, basketball and soccer are examples of vigorous activities.

At the head of the class were Mozambique and New Zealand with each country assigned a “B” grade for overall physical activity levels.

New Zealand appears to have found success in offering opportunities for both organized activities and free play, with most kids spending an average of 78 per minutes daily on free play, the report found. Researchers in New Zealand also have earned worldwide attention after removing all playground rules at elementary schools to help get kids more active, said Active Healthy Kids Canada CEO Jennifer Cowie Bonne.

“Not only did the kids move more, but the administrators reported an immediate and surprising drop in bullying and injuries,” she told a news conference on Tuesday at the first-ever Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children.

Canadian kids earned a failing grade due to time spent being idle. Canadian kids aged three to four spent 5.8 hours a day being sedentary. That number spiked to 7.6 hours for five- to 11-year-olds, while 12- to 17-year-olds spent 9.3 hours a day being sedentary.

Canada also trails in the category of active transportation, assigned a “D,” with the report revealing 62 per cent of parents said their five- to 17-year-olds were always driven to and from school. Meanwhile, Finland was lauded by Canadian officials for allowing the majority of kids to commute to school on their own power.

The report found that 74 per cent of kids in Finland living one to three kilometres from school bike or walk, while nearly all of those living one kilometre or closer do so. For most Canadians, the “socially acceptable” walking distance to school is less than 1.6 kilometres.

While lagging behind many of their international peers in key categories, Canada ranked among the leaders in well-developed facilities, spaces and programs for physical activity.

Canada placed third with a “C plus” for organized sport participation behind New Zealand and Australia, with 75 per cent of five- to 19-year-olds in Canada participating in organized physical activities or sport.

The results come despite findings that there are ample places for kids to break a sweat, with 95 per cent of Canadian parents reporting local availability of parks and outdoor spaces and 94 per cent reporting local availability of public facilities and programs for physical activity like pools, arenas and leagues.

The vast majority of Canadian students have regular access to a gym (95 per cent), playing fields (91 per cent) and areas with playground equipment (73 per cent) during school hours.

In general, low- to middle-income nations as well as countries with less physical infrastructure tended to be more physically active overall, noted Mark Tremblay, chief scientific officer of Active Healthy Kids Canada.

He said the report also caused researchers to question whether play places need to be “CSA-approved structures of plastic rubber, cement and steel” or whether kids should be spending more time playing in nature.

“When we look across the other countries, those that are excelling have done that,” Tremblay said, director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. “It’s either inherent in the way they live, or they’ve been able to allow that to happen and the interaction between nature and the outdoors to just occur organically — whereas it’s anything but organic in our society.”

Cowie Bonne said schools can provide opportunities for students to move more and sit less throughout the day with a mix of strategies for different time periods before, during and after classes, as well as during recess and lunch. School boards and municipalities also need to revisit policies, bylaws and playground rules that restrict opportunities for active outdoor play, she noted.

Traffic calming measures and crossing guards along school routes are among measures that can improve safety to help parents allow their children to walk, wheel and bike more, she added.

Other countries participating in the international comparison process include: Colombia, England, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.

The report’s findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health and are also available at the Active Healthy Kids Canada website http://www.activehealthykids.ca.

___

Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Anniedale school in 1899 with teacher Jessie Inglis, left, and students Hugh Gillis, Harry Latta, Fred Williams, Horatio Hodder, Fraser Latta, Margaret Hodder, Robert Hodder, Annie Gillis and Mary Hodder. (Photo courtesy Surrey Archives)
SURREY NOW & THEN: Old Anniedale schoolhouse closed twice due to pandemic, moved twice

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

Most Read