More than 60 per cent of Canadians believe that children and youth aren’t getting enough physical activity, according to the results of a national Environics poll commissioned by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). The poll results were released April 4 during a news conference to launch Canada’s physical activity guides for children and youth, the first-ever national recommendations on activity levels for kids.
“Canadians may realize that children and youth need more physical activity, but they may not be aware of the dangers of this inactivity,” said Dr. Claire LeBlanc, chair of the CPS Advisory Committee on Healthy Active Living for Children and Youth.
“More than half of Canadian children are not active enough for optimal growth and development,” she added. “There seems to be a disconnect between what Canadians understand to be necessary for children’s health and what they are doing to see that it happens.”
Physical inactivity among children and youth is reaching epidemic proportions in Canada, according to the CPS. A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that the average Canadian child spends three to five hours a day watching TV. Between 1981 and 1996, the incidence of overweight has doubled and that of obesity has tripled for both girls and boys. This is contributing to other health problems like type 2 diabetes and hypertension during childhood and adolescence.
The Canadian Paediatric Society wants paediatricians and other health-care professionals to get involved in reversing these trends. In June, the CPS published a position statement for health-care professionals called Healthy active living for children and youth. Among the recommendations in the statement are that physicians:
- Inquire about nutritional intake and physical activity levels of all children and youth at regular health care visits.
- Encourage children and youth to increase the amount of time they spend on physical activity and sports, according to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide.
- Encourage families to reduce sedentary activities by limiting exposure to TV, computers and video games.
Canada’s Physical Activity Guide for Children and Youth, developed by Health Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and endorsed by the CPS and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, recommends that children get at least 90 minutes of daily exercise. It provides suggestions for kids on how to incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines.
The Environics poll suggested that many kids have other things on their minds. It found that 42 per cent of Canadians believe competing priorities, such as school, part-time jobs, television and computers prevent kids from being more active. Fourteen per cent cited the lack of financial resources as a barrier to increased physical activity and 13 per cent of Canadians said they were unaware of the importance of physical activity in growing children and teens.
“As caregivers for the future generation, we must take the steps necessary to ensure that young Canadians are living physically active lifestyles,” said Dr. LeBlanc.
Forty-five per cent believed parents were the most effective role models to encourage children and teenagers to be more physically active. Friends and peers came second with 27 per cent. Sixty-one per cent considered parents to also be the most effective at advising and encouraging children to become more physically active, while 19 per cent believed it was coaches and recreation leaders.
The Environics poll surveyed 2,014 adults in March 2002. The results are accurate to within +/- 2.2 per cent at a 95 per cent level of confidence.The CPS has developed a brochure for parents with suggestions on encouraging physical activity and good nutrition for children and youth.
For more information:
- Visit www.cps.ca to access the CPS position statement for professionals.
- Visit www.caringforkids.cps.ca to access materials for parents.
- Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living, Health Canada: www.paguide.com or 1-888-334-9769.