Canada receives low grade for childhood fitness
May, 25 2006
by Mark Tremblay, Active Healthy Kids Canada

Canada has received a near-failing grade for the second consecutive year in an annual report card that grades the nation on the exercise habits of its children and youth.

Canada was graded a disappointing "D" in a report released Thursday by Active Health Kids Canada, which says that not only has there been no improvement, but that the level of physical fitness is deteriorating.

"Kids are not moving enough for the amount that they eat or the amount that their body needs in order for their body to develop in an optimal fashion," Mark Tremblay, chair of Active Healthy Kids Canada told CTV Newsnet.

"I think what's happened over time is our frame of reference has consistently shifted downwards at a slow enough pace that we're not alarmed by it."

The organization says data from its report suggests there is a significant disparity between parents' assessment of their children's fitness levels and what the kids are actually doing.

"You find the disconnect by asking parents whether they think their kids are getting enough activity. When you do that, 80 to 90 per cent of parents say that their kids are active enough," Tremblay said.

"When you then look to the research that assesses more rigorously the actual behaviour of kids, we find that less than half are active enough for optimal growth and development."

Active Health Kids Canada is recommending that Canadian parents and caregivers follow three steps that will increase their families' level of fitness.

The recommendations include:

Educating Canadian parents and caregivers about the importance of unstructured physical activity and "play" and help them re-establish active time with their children
Substituting sedentary TV and computer time with physical activity
Establishing health and physical education classes and school-based daily physical activity policies
"We have forgotten just how important unstructured play is for our children's development and well-being," said former Olympian rower Silken Laumann.

"It keeps kids healthy, creative and active, and teaches them valuable life skills. Most importantly, it lets our kids be kids and, as a parent myself, I encourage other parents to be physically active with their children," said Laumann, author of the recently published book, Child's Play.

Laumann believes children should aim for about 90 minutes of physical activity a day.

"If you translate it into going on the Stairmaster and going jogging, that doesn't sound like a lot of fun," Laumann said, appearing on CTV Newsnet.

"But if you translate it into kids walking to school, kicking a soccer ball with friends, playing a bit of road hockey, that's just fun, it's not exercise."

Active Healthy Kids Canada is a charitable organization established to advocate the importance of physical activity for children and youth.