Physical activity levels of Canadian kids lags behind global pack, report finds

A new report reveals that the overall physical activity levels of Canadian kids are lagging behind those of youngsters from other nations.

TORONTO — A new report reveals that the overall physical activity levels of Canadian kids are lagging behind those of youngsters from other nations.

For the first time, Active Healthy Kids Canada is using its annual Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth to see how Canadians measure up to kids in 14 other countries.

The findings were released Tuesday at the first-ever Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children being held in Toronto.

Canadian children and youth were assigned a “D minus” grade for overall physical activity levels.

Canada trailed near the back of the international pack along with Australia, Ireland and the U.S. — who were also each assigned a D minus — while Scotland received an “F.”

Mozambique and New Zealand topped the list for overall physical activity levels with each country assigned a “B” grade.

The report found that 84 per cent of Canadian three-to-four-year-olds met early years guidelines of at least 180 minutes of daily physical activity at any intensity. But it was a far more grim picture for older children, with only seven per cent of five- to 11-year-olds and four per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds in Canada meeting recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.

Walking quickly, skating and bike riding are examples of moderate activities, while running, basketball and soccer are examples of vigorous activities.

Canada also trails behind the bulk of the global pack in the category of active transportation, assigned a “D,” with the report revealing 62 per cent of parents said their five- to 17-year-olds were always driven to and from school.

The country’s kids earned a failing grade for sedentary behaviours, which involve little physical movement and a low expenditure of energy. Canadian kids aged three to four spent 5.8 hours a day being sedentary. That number spiked to 7.6 hours for five- to 11-year-olds, while 12- to 17-year-olds spent 9.3 hours a day being sedentary.

Despite trailing behind many of their international peers in key categories, the report finds Canada among the leaders in well-developed physical activity infrastructure and programs.

Canada ranked third with a “C plus” for organized sport participation behind New Zealand and Australia, with 75 per cent of five- to 19-year-olds in Canada participating in organized physical activities or sport.

The results come despite findings that there are ample places for kids to break a sweat, with 95 per cent of Canadian parents reporting local availability of parks and outdoor spaces and 94 reporting local availability of public facilities and programs for physical activity like pools, arenas and leagues.

The vast majority of Canadian students have regular access to a gym (95 per cent), playing fields (91 per cent) and areas with playground equipment (73 per cent) during school hours.

Despite the presence of established policies, places and programs designed to help kids get moving, the report pointed to what it described as a “culture of convenience” to account for why many Canadian kids aren’t more active.

“Our country values efficiency — doing more in less time — which may be at direct odds with promoting children’s health,” a portion of the short-form report reads.

In a bid to boost the daily physical activity levels for all kids, the report encourages a mix of activities throughout the day that encompass sport, active play and active transportation.

Other countries participating in the international comparison process include: Colombia, England, Finland, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.

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