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Are your kids as active as they should be? Likely not…

Jan 14, 2015
written by: Catherine Cameron
written by: Catherine Cameron
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Are your kids as active as they should be? Likely not…

When we were kids, most of us got plenty of activity. We walked to and from school, we flew out the door to play with our friends, and if it was wet or cold out, we dressed for it. Our parents were generally more active too – they chose active transportation like walking or cycling more often, weren’t held hostage by their hand-held devices and had more time for recreational activities, and were more likely to take care of household chores like cutting the grass and shoveling snow, themselves.

Times have changed. Today, only 5% of Canadian children and teens are active enough for health benefits. Research suggests there are many reasons for the physical inactivity crisis we’re experiencing in Canada. A lack of time, the perception that our communities are unsafe for children, inclement weather, and the allure of screens, are just a few of the barriers our kids face in accessing the active, playful childhoods they need for healthy development. We know that active kids are happier, healthier, have higher self-esteem, are less anxious, and even perform better academically. They’re also much more likely to grow into active, healthy adults.

If you’re wondering how much daily physical activity your kids need for health benefits, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines are a good place to start. Generally speaking, for children ages five to 17, they recommend a minimum of 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity each day.

Children – infants to four years:
Infants (less than a year old) should be physically active several times each day, especially by way of interactive floor-based play.

Toddlers (ages one to two) and preschoolers (ages three to four) should get at least 180 minutes of physical activity each day, progressing to at least an hour of high-energy play by the age of five.

Children – ages five to 11 years:
Children within this age range should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity or active play each day. Activity does not need to happen all at once – two, three, or several mini periods of activity all count towards the hour they need each day. Aim for heart-pumping activities (running, games of tag, etc.) as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone (like skipping to school or jumping rope) at least three times a week. When it comes to physical activity, more is better… so remember the Power of an Hour!

Children – ages 12-17 years:
Youth who fall within this age range should participate in at least 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity or active play each day. They should also enjoy activities that strengthen muscle and bone (i.e. running, basketball, tennis) at least three times a week.

Helping our kids to be more active is easy:

  • Choose active transportation – encourage your kids to walk or bike to school.
  • Encourage children to join sports teams and recreational activities at school
  • Pack balls and jump ropes in school backpacks to encourage play with friends at breaks, lunch, and after school
  • Set aside time to be active as a family every day – even for 30 minutes
  • Limit screen time and encourage kids to be active instead — particularly during the after-school period of 3:00 to 6:00 PM
  • Be an active role model for your kids. Active parents have more active kids

Tennis is a fun way to get the kids (and entire family) moving more. Find your provincial/territorial association to learn more about tennis in your community – and don’t forget to join and share with us on Twitter @Tennis_Canada and @Cate_Cameron.