Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Commentary on Canadian Children Getting a Failing Grade for Physical Activity

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)
It is true that more children are being driven or bused to school.  The reality is there has been school closures forcing Canadian children to have to travel further to get to their school even in urban settings.  Canadian children in rural areas have no choice but to ride the bus to school.  Parents of urban children face the fear that they may come into harm so driving them to school is seen as protecting their children.  At the same time a surprising number of school aged children are in extra curricular activities that due to timing forces the children to be picked up immediately after school to get them to that activity on time.  In smaller Canadian communities a good portion of children do walk or bike to school.  To put it in perspective when I was in elementary school I walked or biked because we didn't have a vehicle as my Mom never learned to drive.  Sometimes I got a ride with a friend on rainy or bitter cold days but even back then parents were driving their children to school so this really is nothing new.

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.   
    Recreation facilities/programs, parks and playgrounds received a Grade D because less than half of Canadian children and youth used the amenities available to them. There are a few problems with this point.  The facilities may be there but if Canadian families cannot afford to have their children use amenities that are not free it becomes a moot point.  Honestly a family membership at the YMCA costs $100 per month but the additional cost such as just getting back and forth greatly add to the cost.  With today's rising prices, just coming out of a recession and Prime Minister Harper's ever increasing tax grab few families have an extra $100 to spend on using a recreational facility or programs.  Sports cost even more when you factor in registration, equipment and travelling and that is per child.  If a family has 3 children this is even more problematic.  Free facilities especially park, playgrounds and pools have a host of problems as well mainly centred around vandalisim and bullying.  Many parents are not comfortable letting their younger children go to the playground by themselves.

    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.


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