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Report finds physical activity levels of Canadian kids lag behind global pack


May 20, 2014
By Lauren La Rose The Canadian Press

May 20th, 2014 – A new report reveals that the overall physical activity levels of Canadian kids are lagging behind those of youngsters from other nations.

For the first time, Active Healthy Kids Canada is using its annual Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth to see how Canadians measure up to kids in 14 other countries.

The findings were released at the first-ever Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children, which was held in Toronto on Tuesday.

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Canadian children and youth were assigned a D-minus grade for overall physical activity levels.

Canada trailed near the back of the international pack along with
Australia, Ireland and the U.S., who were each also assigned a D-minus, while Scotland received an F.

Mozambique and New Zealand topped the list for overall physical activity levels, with each country being assigned a B grade.

The report found that 84 per cent of Canadians three to four years old met early years guidelines of at least 180 minutes of daily physical activity at any intensity. But it was a far more grim picture for older children, with only seven per cent of five to 11-year-olds and four per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds in Canada meeting recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.

Walking quickly, skating and bike riding are examples of moderate activities, while running, basketball and soccer are examples of vigorous activities.

Canada also trails behind the bulk of the global pack in the category of active transportation, assigned a D, with the report revealing 62 per cent of parents said their five to 17-year-olds were always driven to and from school.

The country's kids earned a failing grade for sedentary behaviours, which involve little physical movement and a low expenditure of energy. Canadian kids aged three to four spent 5.8 hours a day being sedentary. That number spiked to 7.6 hours for five to 11-year-olds, while 12 to 17-year-olds spent 9.3 hours a day being sedentary.

Despite trailing behind many of their international peers in key categories, the report finds Canada among the leaders in well-developed physical activity infrastructure and programs.

Canada ranked third with a C-plus for organized sport participation behind New Zealand and Australia, with 75 per cent of five to 19-year-olds in Canada participating in organized physical activities or sport.

These results come despite findings that there are ample places for kids to break a sweat, with 95 per cent of Canadian parents reporting local availability of parks and outdoor spaces and 94 reporting local availability of public facilities and programs for physical activity like pools, arenas and leagues.

The vast majority of Canadian students have regular access to a gym (95 per cent), playing fields (91 per cent) and areas with playground equipment (73 per cent) during school hours.

Despite the presence of established policies, places and programs designed to help kids get moving, the report pointed to what it described as a, “culture of convenience” to account for why many Canadian kids aren't more active.

“Our country values efficiency, doing more in less time, which may be at direct odds with promoting children's health,” a portion of the short-form report reads.

In a bid to boost the daily physical activity levels for all kids, the report encourages a mix of activities throughout the day that encompass sport, active play and active transportation.

Other countries participating in the international comparison process include: Colombia, England, Finland, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.