Let’s Get a Move On!

The results are in!  Active Healthy Kids Canada has released the annual Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, a comprehensive assessment of the current state of physical activity among Canadian children and youth.

Active Kids are Healthy Kids

Photo courtesy of Tim Fraser

The 2012 Report Card grades our Canadian kids with an ‘F’ for physical activity levels, reporting alarming statistics, including:

  • Only 7% of children and youth are meeting the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day
  •  44% are getting 60 minutes of physical activity 3 days weekly
  • 46% get 3 hours or less of active play per week
  • 63% of  kids’ free time after school and on weekends is spent being sedentary
  • 10- to 16-year-olds in Canada get an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes of screen time per day;  largest source of screen time is television (2 hours and 39 minutes) followed by computers (2 hours and 7 minutes) and video games (1 hour and 51 minutes)

Tips for Raising Active Kids

Establishing a pattern of daily physical activity early in life is a first step to good health — to last a lifetime!  The benefits extend beyond the obvious:  exercise builds strong muscles, lungs, bones and heart.

However, research also indicates physical activity also contributes to a positive self-esteem and mental health, improves posture, balance and flexibility. Group sports also help broaden socialization skills. So, where to start?? |

Begin to develop new lifestyle activities:

  • Ask your kids how they would like to incorporate physical activity on a daily, weekly and monthly schedule – it’s important to get their buy-in.
  • Set realistic goals for your family and each individual — and be sure to provide positive feedback with progress.
  • Reward and recognize achievements – celebrate with a special dinner event at home or at your favorite restaurant; make it fun!

Being Active Starts at Home

  • Schedule weekly activities to coincide with the season:
    • Fall – walks in the country
    • Winter — skating
    • Summer — swimming
    • Spring — cycling
  • Treats included along the way offer incentive — healthy and tasty snacks, or a lunch at the popular family hangout.
  • Budget each year for the purchase of sports or recreation equipment (hula hoops, sports balls, tennis rackets).
  • Introduce a new physical activity into your quality family time.
  • Minimize ‘driving’ to destinations and encourage walking by dropping your kids a kilometer before the final destination – better still, have them bicycle (where it’s safe and feasible).

Integrate Physical Activity Throughout the Day

  • Remind your kids to interrupt sedentary behavior by interspersing some physical activity; suggest that after each hour of sitting or reclining they introduce a 10 minute break for running in place, walking to the corner or cycling up the street.
  • Schedule a ‘no-screen’ time during the evening — an opportunity to recognize a physical activity interlude. Make it fun by challenging your kids to come up with the most creative activity!
  • Increase active transportation by encouraging walking, cycling, skateboarding and engaging in sports after school and on the weekends
  • Allow your kids to choose an activity they are naturally attracted to and will look forward to participating in, such as, dancing, gymnastics or playing baseball.

Be a Role-Model

As a parent, it’s important to be a good role-model.  Just think of all the opportunities throughout the day where you can support your kids in changing physical activity behavior.

Ask them to join you in walking the dog, taking out the garbage, raking the leaves, shoveling snow or carrying in groceries.  All these little events add up to a lot in one day.

You’ll be doing your kids a great favour by encouraging them to develop a healthier lifestyle – consider it a priceless gift that someday they’ll thank you for!

For many more resources and tips on the promotion of physical activity, visit EatRight Ontario. Find out more at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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What physical activities do your children enjoy the most? Share your tips and ideas in the Comments section below.


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About Cathy OConnor

Cathy O’Connor is a registered dietitian with a Master degree in public health, with over 20 years working in school food service. Most recently, she was hired by Dietitians of Canada, as a School Project Specialist, one of two experts, to work with the Ministry of Education to support the implementation of Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy.
Cathy is the principal of Eat Well at School, a company dedicated to introducing positive change to the school dining experience. Cathy may be contacted at [email protected] or 416.500.2636. Visit her website: www.eatwellatschool.ca.

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