Canadian kids rank low in global childhood physical activity report

TORONTO — Canadian kids continue to rank low in a global report on physical activity.

The most recent release from the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance finds children in Slovenia and Japan to be the most active among 49 countries studied.

Canada scored D+ in categories that measure overall physical activity and sedentary behaviour, and a D in the newest indicator, physical fitness.

The Canadian data was drawn from the ParticipAction Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth released in June. That report gave Canadian kids a D+ for overall physical activity, up slightly from D- in 2016.

The global report blames Canada’s dismal showing on too much screen time, the urbanization of communities and increasing automation of domestic chores.

It says countries with the most active children and youth foster physical activity by “pervasive cultural and social norms.”

Slovenia integrates sport with national identity and regularly measures the physical fitness of children 6 to 19 years old. It scored a top grade of A- for overall physical activity, a B+ for family and peers and an A for government, which evaluates strategy and resources.

Meanwhile, Japan has a highly established walking-to-school policy and earned an A- for active transportation and an A for physical fitness.

Alliance president and Ottawa physician Dr. Mark Tremblay says activity levels overall are too low, and deemed it “a global childhood inactivity epidemic.”

He acknowledged that data provided by participating countries is inconsistent, with many in the current study supplying incomplete information.

But he was buoyed by the addition of 15 countries to the study, including several in South America. He says four countries from the previous study in 2016 dropped out of the survey.

Tremblay, also a researcher with the ParticipAction survey, says Canada can improve its ranking by encouraging kids to walk, bike or wheel to school, and better managing screen time.

In the ParticipAction report, just 35 per cent of kids age five-to-17, and 62 per cent of kids age three-to-four were found to get the exercise they need, while 51 per cent engage in more recreational screen time than is recommended.

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