Posts Tagged ‘physical activity’


I am typically not a fan of organizations using the “Report Card” device as a way to draw attention to their reports. Usually, I see organizations produce a report lamenting the work in a specific areas, looking to generate headlines like, “Organization X Gives Y Failing Grade.”

The recent ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth  does do some of that, but is far more nuanced.  While yes, it does give a D- to overall physical activity, there are good grades for a number of areas including youth participation in sports, support of parents, government and non-government investment and the role of schools.  The report lauds the physical education curriculum in each province, with special mention of Manitoba.

The most powerful part of the report was the focus on getting kids outside and letting them play.  Quoting the report:

We may be so focused on trying to intervene in our children’s lifestyles to make sure they’re healthy, safe and happy, that we are having the opposite effect . . .  We overprotect kids to keep them safe, but keeping them close and keeping them indoors may set them up to be less resilient and more likely to develop chronic diseases in the long run.

The report relies on a variety of studies that have a number of conclusions that, while not surprising, run counter to many current practices including:

  • pre-schoolers spend twice as much time being active when play is outdoors
  • students take 35% more steps when physical education class is held outdoors
  • Canadian kids who play outside after school get 20 more minutes of heart-pumping activity per day than those who don’t

One conclusion that I found particularly striking is that children and youth are less likely to engage in higher levels of physical activity if a parent or supervising adult is present.

With my Superintendent view, some of the takeaways for me include:

  • We are on the right track in our district (and others in BC) with outdoor learning programs – and we need to continue to encourage their growth
  • The growth of urban agriculture courses and school gardens is an important trend – outdoor learning does not just have to be about physical activity
  • We need to be careful that safety and liability concerns don’t unnecessarily block wonderful outdoor learning opportunities
  • We need to be sure that recess and other outdoor learning opportunities are valued and we need to remind parents that kids should get outside even when it is cold or rainy
  • There is going to be increased emphasis on natural elements in playgrounds moving forward
  • The urgency around physical literacy is inclusive of doing a better job with structured opportunities and also ensuring kids have unstructured free play opportunities

The report takes the bold position, “Access to active play in nature and outdoors – with its risks – is essential for healthy child development.  We recommend increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings – at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature.”

My hesitation in reading the report is that some will suggest that we just have to go back to the “way it used to be when we were young”.  I am always concerned with this view.  The world today is different for kids than the one their parents grew up in – it is not as simple as turning back the clock; we also often have a habit of romanticizing our youth.  The answer around getting kids active is not telling people we just need to go back to how things used to be it is about building something new rooted in our current reality.

The entire report is worth reading, and there are some great resources to share with teachers, parents and others in the community (e.g. this Infographic and this tip sheet) .  Reading the report, and reviewing the data there is a strong case for broadening our current thinking about how we encourage  young people to be active.

And as we embark on summer it is a good reminder that we need to model the way with our kids and get outside!

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After school activities have always been a major concern for parents. Over the last two decades, this has been a growing concern with both parents often working, and young people having reduced supervision after school.   The latest Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth paints a disturbing picture about physical activity for children and youth between 3-6 p.m., and suggests the problem is not the same problem as lamented in the past, but a growing and more concerning challenge.

Quoting from the report:

“Right now, kids are spending over 40 hours a week in front of screens,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief
Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada, and Director of HALO. “These alarming numbers equate to a
very sedentary child, so we must transform the after‐school hours into healthy, active living time.

In part, some of this “healthy, active living time” has been diminished because of parental concerns about supervision and safety around after-school activities like running, biking, and playing outside with friends. This time is now often filled with watching television, or playing video and computer games. Increasingly,  students are attending after-school programs with little or no physical activity.  We see this with the rise of businesses catering to or offering more “school” after school for students — whether that be additional language training or, very often, math support.

And what do the report authors see as some of the solutions?

Getting kids outside:  those who are outside take about 2,000 more steps than those who stay indoors after school

School-Community Partnerships:  finding ways to offer recreational programs in school facilities, or nearby facilities after school

Youth Leadership:  have students assist in the development of programs for their peers

Policy and Investment Support:  target resources for the promotion of physical activity in the after-school hours

This time period is particularly challenging as there is no one group with a solution to the challenge.  There are, however, roles for policy-makers, parents, early childhood educators,  recreational and health professionals, and schools to play.  There is overwhelming research indicating youth who are physically active improve their mental health, academic performance, contribute/maintain a healthy body weight, and develop physical literacy.

This being true, communities will need to work together to reverse the growing after-school trends.  The efforts to increase physical activity during the school day are laudable. Now, we need to figure out on how these efforts can be supported between 3-6 p.m.

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