Being active needs to be the Canadian norm, not the exception

By GoodLife Kids on 16/11/2016

At GoodLife Kids Foundation, our purpose is to give every Canadian kid the opportunity to live a fit and healthy good life. We believe that kids who engage in physical activity are not only healthier but happier too! Early positive physical activity experiences set the foundation for a lifelong love of being active that kids can carry with them through to adulthood. We want the next generation of Canadians to know the value and joy of being physically active.

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So for us, the results of a new study released today by ParticipACTION are disappointing to say the least. For the first time, researcher and child physical activity expert Dr. Mark Tremblay has compared child and youth physical activity report card grades from 38 countries across six continents. The results are in – and Tremblay’s team shows Canada sitting near the back of the pack for physical activity behaviours.

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While Canada boasts top 4 grades of A- in community and built environment and B in organized sport participation, an overall physical activity grade of D- and sedentary behaviour grade of F paint a grim picture. Only 9% of Canadian children and youth aged 5-17 are meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. 74% are exceeding guidelines for screen-time.

Slovenia ranked highest in overall physical activity, with 86% of boys and 76% of girls aged 6-18 getting 60 minutes a day of heart-pumping physical activity per day. Their success is largely credited to the cultural priority placed on phys ed in schools; primary students have 77 minutes of in-school physical activity taught by experts each day! Countries including the Netherlands and Zimbabwe where active transportation is the norm also ranked high in overall physical activity levels.

For Tremblay, the way forward is “encouraging and re-establishing Canadian cultural norms.”

Being active needs to be the Canadian norm, not the exception.

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  1. Start kids young
    Childhood habits develop early, so set kids on the right path from the start. Be a positive physical activity role model. 

  2. Give kids the choice of how to be physically active, not whether or not to be physically active
    Don’t let the decision be between screen time and active time. Giving kids a say in how they want to be active will help them buy-in.

  3. Be inclusive
    Being physically active is for everybody! All ages, all abilities, able-bodied or otherwise. Sometimes all it takes is a simple modification to open up an activity to a wider group of kids.

  4. Explore different options
    Being physically active is about more than organized sport. If sport isn’t their thing, maybe your kid will love yoga, dance, hiking, swimming, or karate. Give them the opportunity to try different options and let them figure out what they enjoy.

  5. Have FUN
    Being physically active shouldn’t feel like a chore. Kids don’t need to be stressed about winning, run through rigorous drills, or judged on skill. Focus on keeping them moving and having a great time.

Let us know how you're making physical activity the norm for kids in your life on Facebook.com/goodlifekids or Twitter @goodlifekids.

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About the Author

GoodLife Kids
GoodLife Kids Foundation shares resources and links to help you provide a healthier and more physically active lifestyle for the children in your life.

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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