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 3:00 p.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

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read