More and more children across Canada are living a sedentary lifestyle as they are being less physically active and are devoting much of their free time to the computer, television, video game and/or mobile device screens.
It seems the days of playing stickball in the front yard, throwing around a ball in the backyard or participating in various sports are coming to an end. According to a report card
released by the Active Healthy Kids Canada organization and its partners, ParticipACTION and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute – Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO), called Physical Activity for Children and Youth, an “F” grade was given to youth for a paucity of active leisure and play.
The report suggested that nearly half (46 percent) of Canada’s youth spend three hours or less of active play each week and this includes weekends. It even suggests that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of children are spending any free time they may have being inactive.
When kids are at lunch or finished school, they are only spending approximately 24 minutes in rigorous activity – the group recommends at least 60 minutes each day of activity. The study authors noted these numbers are alarming because access to physical activity is easy and inexpensive.
“Unstructured play is declining with each generation, and this is having a negative effect on the health and wellness of our children and youth,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada, and Director of HALO.
“Kids of all ages should have regular opportunities for active play, where they can let loose, explore, run, climb, crawl and play in parks with friends, like their parents once did. Active play is fun, but it is also shown to improve a child’s motor function, creativity, decision-making, problem-solving and social skills.”
There were 24 grades assigned in the report card, including:
- “F” for screen-based sedentary behaviours
- “F” for physical activity levels
- “F” for federal government levels
- “D+” for active transportation
- “D+” for family physical activity
- “C-“ for provincial or territorial government investments
“Play has been called the business of childhood, because it is what our children and youth should be spending their time doing,” said Kelly Murumets, President and CEO, ParticipACTION. “We have a responsibility to get out of our children’s way and give them the time, space and freedom to run around, direct their own activities and learn from their mistakes. The reward will be increased confidence, a sense of adventure and, perhaps most importantly, a love for being active.”