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Only 5% of Canadian kids are active enough for their health: 10 tips to get them moving

Feb 03, 2015
written by: Catherine Cameron
written by: Catherine Cameron
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As a parent, the health and happiness of my kids is always top of mind. It makes me indescribably happy (and proud!) to see my now 12 and 16-year-old daughters making smart, healthy choices. Whether it’s my older daughter choosing to exercise as a means of busting the stress of exams, or my younger daughter  modifying a recipe to make it healthier, I think I’ve finally managed to convince them that little changes can add up to big gains.

Having worked with ParticipACTION for several years, I know all about our nation’s inactivity crisis. Over half of our adult population is considered inactive, and when it comes to our kids, only 5% are active enough for health benefits. Most parents are in disbelief when they hear these statistics – they imagine their children to be every bit as active as they were as kids. Not so, and unless we make a deliberate effort to change things, our kids are facing a future of less-than- optimal physical, mental and emotional health, and quite possibly, a shorter lifespan than our own.

Happily, helping our kids (and ourselves!) to move more isn’t rocket science. Try these simple strategies:

  1. Knowledge is power. Have a look at the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines to see how much and what kinds of exercise are recommended for each member of your family. When it comes to kids, at least an hour of daily heart-pumping activity is recommended. Think #powerofanhour.
  2. Build activity into daily routines – like walking to school or work instead of driving, or running errands by bike or on foot. I love that Winnipeg Physical Education teacher, Mr. Blue Jay Bridge (@MrBridge204) and his family, ride bikes to the grocery store when the weather allows.
  3. Be an active role model for your kids. Active parents tend to have more active children. Invite them to share some of the activities and sports you enjoy and take an interest in theirs. I like this video by Tennis Canada coach, Séverine Tamborero (@coachsevi) with tips on helping kids select a sport to enjoy.
  4. Add a ball or jump rope to school backpacks to encourage active play with friends at lunch and recess. Remember too, to dress kids for active play in loose, comfortable clothing.
  5. Encourage your child to participate in school-run activities and sports before school, at lunch, and after school.
  6. Register your child for swimming lessons (which are often offered free). Swimming is a life skill and a fun way for kids to be active. Are you aware of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and the fact that it’s doubling this year? The after-school period of 3:30 – 6:30 PM tends to be sedentary for most children (homework, the allure of TV and other screens, etc.).
  7. Encourage after-school sports, outdoor play with friends, or enlist kids to help out with activities such as walking the dog or running errands. Even brief periods of activity (such as 10 minutes) counts towards their daily needs.
  8. Be active as a family. Make time in the evenings and on weekends for active family fun. A walk with the dog, a bike ride, some table tennis, shooting hoops, a swim at the community centre… they all count.
  9. Limit screen time. Children spend almost eight hours a day at in front of screens. Over the course of a seven-day week, this adds up to more time than their parents spend at work.
  10. Encourage play. When it comes to kids, active, outdoor free play is all it takes to increase physical activity levels. Remember how much fun we had playing as kids?

Do your kids benefit from the #powerofanhour every day? Share your tips and tricks to keep them in motion with us @cate_cameron and @tennis_Canada.