by Angie Kolen, PhD.
Recently, ParticipAction released the latest report card on physical activity of children and youth (report card 2016). Once again, we earned a D-! Although most children under the age of 5 years are physically active enough, only 9% of children and youth ages 5 to 17 meet the guidelines.
Part of the reason children and youth are not active enough may be an overestimation of how much they do as well as an overestimation of the intensity of their physical activities. Let me put that into perspective. Many of our children participate in sport and other recreational activities in addition to physical education in school. We might think their hour of soccer, hockey, track, dance, swimming lessons, and/or their 30-45 minutes of physical education covers their needs. It does not. The reality is even with the best teachers and/or coaches who quickly explain what needs to be done and how it should be done, the entire lesson or practice is not spent engaged in moderate or more intense physical activity – nor should it be. To practice the skills and learn how to play the game requires movement time that is not always at a moderate or greater level of intensity. Please do not think I am suggesting that sport, recreation and physical education are not good for our children and youth. They are. In fact, I am likely the strongest advocate for them, especially PE – suggesting we need at least one hour every day for our children taught by qualified PE teachers. What I am saying is that these physical activities alone do not meet our children’s needs, we need to supplement them with active play at home, active recreation, active transportation, and possibly even exercise.
The physical activity guidelines for children and youth clearly state they need at LEAST 60 minutes of moderate or more intense physical activity EACH day. The research I (along with others) have done in the province (Physical Activity of Children and Youth; Keeping Pace) where we objectively measured the physical activity of boys and girls in grades 3, 7, and 11 showed that many children and a few youth met the guidelines on 4 to 6 days per week only needing one more day or just 10-15 minutes more physical activity each day. In essence then, we need to get our children to do just a little more each day and every day. Let’s do that – let’s help our kids move more, and move more often.
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