Our children got an “F” in active play.
That’s the mark Canadian kids received on the 2012 report card issued by Active Healthy Kids Canada. The report found that 63 per cent of children’s free time after school and on weekends is sedentary.
“I don’t like the idea of them hanging out on the streets or going to the park unsupervised,” says Genevieve Lopes, 34, a single mom in Toronto who lives in a basement apartment with her daughters Ashley, 13, and Larissa, 9. “If you don’t keep them busy, kids just sit and text.”
Lopes, who is currently on disability from a full-time bank job, feels lucky to have found St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club, where the girls swim, skateboard and rock climb after school.
But millions of Canadian parents are challenged to meet the guideline of keeping kids active for an hour a day. Only seven per cent of children are meeting that goal.
What can parents do to boost their children’s physical activity levels? “Chill out and get out,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, chief scientific officer of Active Healthy Kids Canada in Ottawa. He suggests that parents model an active lifestyle by “playing” outside. Another suggestion is to limit screen time (including texting) to no more than two hours a day. Some kids are currently plugged in for a whopping eight hours a day.
“Resist buying a new video game, TV, or computer and instead dedicate that money to active play equipment such as a hockey net, a basketball net, a new bike, a skipping rope, driveway chalk, or a ball,” says Tremblay.