Ramp up the activity level
Most of us enjoy a little recreational screen time now and then, whether it be television, computer or smartphone. But too much screen time can be a detriment.
In the case of Canadian children, an abundance of screen time is making them among the least active young people on the planet.
The latest annual ParticipAction report card gives Canadian kids a D-minus grade in for their level of physical activity, marking the fourth straight year they’ve received that lowly grade. It comes because of a study which showed children in this country rank near the bottom of a group of 37 countries in terms of physical activity. We’re in good company – or bad, if you will – alongside the U.S., England, Australia and Spain. Leading the way? Slovenia, with an A-minus, earned because 86 per cent of boys and 76 per cent of girls are receiving a sufficient amount of physical activity.
In Canada, a paltry nine per cent of young people ages five to 17 are getting the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of daily, “heart-pumping” activity.
It doesn’t have to be that way, ParticipAction officials say.
“In Canada, we haven’t focused on shifting social norms from a culture of convenience to a culture of encouraging and embracing physical activity throughout the day, every day,” Elio Antunes, president and CEO of ParticipAction, said in a news release. “In order to be successful, we need to create a climate in Canada where making the active choice is the default.”
Doing so will require leadership from adults – parents, school officials and policy makers – to help encourage a more active lifestyle because kids aren’t likely to make the decision on their own. But if kids can be encouraged to be more active in ways that are fun, they will be more likely to carry it on into adulthood.
The report notes that in Slovenia, physical education is a well-established part of the school system, and physical activity is a cultural norm. In Zimbabwe, 80 per cent of children use active transportation (walking, biking) instead of motorized transport to go to school compared to just 25 per cent of Canadian youths. Granted, walking or biking to school might not be workable for some Canadian kids, but that just means other forms of activity need to be built into their day.
This isn’t a competition to see which country has the fittest kids. It’s about health, and a lack of physical activity is a contributor to the obesity problem that has health officials concerned about rising rates of diabetes and other associated health problems.
Getting kids to reduce their screen time isn’t a case of being mean; it’s a matter of doing what’s best for our children. It’s up to parents, school officials and policy makers to help make being active a cultural norm that will serve as an example for young people.
We’ll all reap the benefits.