Canadian kids are woefully inactive and should be encouraged to play in natural settings and take risks, according to an annual report released Tuesday.
ParticipAction’s latest annual Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, released Tuesday, gave Canadian kids a D-minus for overall physical activity for the third year in a row.
“We have lost the balance between short-term safety and long-term health. In outdoor play, risk doesn’t mean courting danger, but rather giving kids the freedom to assess their surroundings and make decisions, allowing them to build confidence, develop skills, solve problems and learn limits,” said Dr. Mark Tremblay, chief scientific officer of the non-profit ParticipAction, which releases the annual Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.
Canada has received an “alarmingly low” D- for three consecutive years because most kids aren’t getting enough exercise, the report says.
Just 9% of children aged five to 17 meet the Canadian guideline of an hour of physical activity per day, the report says.
It puts much of the blame on the “protection paradox,” which restricts kids from being more active by keeping them inside.
A study found Grade 5 and 6 students who were almost always allowed to go outside unsupervised were 20% more active than kids who were constantly supervised.
“In order to help ensure Canadian children get enough heart-pumping activity, we need to recognize that they are competent and capable to go out and explore on their own or with friends,” ParticipAction president and CEO Elio Antunes said.
“Children move more, sit less and play longer in self-directed outdoor play, so the biggest risk is keeping our kids supervised indoors.”
The report recommends parents and teachers help increase children’s opportunity to get active by adding in bouts of it whenever possible. It also wants the government to make access to programs for less fortunate families simple and more dignified by ditching the requirement to provide proof of income.