Yesterday I posted a summary of Active Healthy Kids Canada's recently released sixth annual report card based on hundreds of data sets and studies related to physical activity of children and youth in Canada. The group's conclusion was a failing grade. Today's post will give my view on their conclusion and implications.
According to the data 36% of children ages 2 - 3 and 44% of children ages 4 - 5 were getting regulat physical activity as part of their daily routines but only 12% of children and youth are getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity for their age group. The recommended amount of physical activity for children ages 1 - 5 is at least two hours a day. Children older than 5 should have 90 minutes of physical activity daily. Children in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories were getting slightly more daily exercise while those in the Atlantic provinces were getting the least amoung of daily physical activity. Reasons cited for Canadian children getting the failing grade for physical activity included:
- driven to school
- too much screen time (Grade F)
- Canada's physical education programs (Grade C)
- recreation facilities/programs, parks and playgrounds (Grade D)
- federal government (Grade F)
In many ways I don't find it surprising that some children are spending up to six hours a day in front of television and computer screens. While this time did not include homework it included video games, TV, and chatting with friends on line. The reality is we live in a computerized, technological society. Children today are introduced to both television and computers at a much earlier age. Our oldest grandbaby could work an iPhone at about age 1, easily and effortlessly scrolling to her favourite childrens programs on it. I was amazed but at the same time this is what is being expected of children today. The group also mentioned that about 90% of Canadian children begin watching TV before their second birthday in comparison to the average age of 4 forty years ago while the current recommendation is no screen time for children under age 2. Forty years ago we relied on a black and white television hooked to an antenna that got all of 4 channels. Many Canadian families today cannot afford things like extra curricular sports or take their kids to the movies. Have you seen how much some of these programs actually cost? Television and computers are the accepted norm today. The report also only reported on time spent in front of screens but didn't distinguish how much time was spent on video games like the Wii that is specifically meant to get people of all ages moving.
Canada's physical education programs have discrepancies between the amount of time mandated for phys-ed in schools and the amount actually allotted to it. The reason for this is the current educational curriculums across Canada are stressing learning. There is increasing pressure on the educational system in short do the parenting for the parents. At the same time each provincial educational curriculum has certain expectations the students must meet in order to proceed to the next grade. With higher learning expectations there is less time available for physical activity programs. It is a reasonable expectation on the part of the province that if a child has 2 - 10 minute recesses, a 15 minute play period at lunch and a 20 minute scheduled physical education class daily that the parents should be able to ensure their children get the additional 45 minutes of physical activity before/after school hours and on weekends.
The Canadian federal government received a Grade F because it spends half the amount it spent in 1986 on promoting physical fitness. Again the government like the educational system is expected to step in to do the job parents are supposed to do. However, when they are increases taxes at a rate faster than the average Canadian can keep up with I feel they have a responsibility to use some of those tax dollars to promote physical fitness especially for Canada's children and youth. The bottom line is we as Canadians all have a responsibility to promote physical fitness not only for our selves but both the older and younger generations.