COLUMN: Summer – time to get active

  - Leader file photo
— image credit: Leader file photo

As we prepare to enter summer in a few weeks, we can expect more sunny days and hot weather awaiting us. This also means opportunities to get active and enjoy the great outdoors.

According to the recently released Active Healthy Kids Canada’s 2014 Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth, Canada received a D-grade in “Overall Physical Activity levels.”

Furthermore, the report states that only “7% of kids (meet physical activity) guidelines at ages 5-11, and only 4% (meet) guidelines at ages 12-17.”

It further describes that although Canada has recreational infrastructure and parents involve their children in sports teams, this is usually not enough to bring the activity level of children to a sufficient level. It encourages biking or walking to school and parents to support greater physical activity in kids’ free time.

In the area of “Sedentary behaviours,” Canada received an F grade. High levels of sedentary behaviour in children, which includes “screen-based” and “non-screen sedentary behaviours,” contribute to this failing grade.

The report, therefore, clearly sends a wake-up call and provides numerous recommendations on how greater physical activity levels can be achieved.

The summer is an excellent opportunity for parents to encourage greater outdoor activities for their children and help them build a passion for an active lifestyle. The health benefits of physical activity cannot be overstated. While moderate screen time and sedentary behaviour is acceptable, parents should encourage children to use their free time for active pursuits.

The 2014 report states that “to increase daily physical activity levels for all kids, we must encourage the accumulation of physical activity throughout a child’s day, and consider a mix of opportunities (e.g., sport, active play, active transportation).”

Hence, in order to successfully incorporate physical activity into kids’ lifestyles, a multitude of options will need to be implemented. Parents should also look for opportunities to play with their children and get more involved, but “only 37% of parents say they often played active games with their children in the past year.”

This is a statistic that needs to be turned around, and by collectively making lifestyle changes, parents can indeed do this.

Getting physically active not only leads to better health, fun and excitement, but it can also build wonderful memories of childhood play. Social and teamwork skills can allow children to achieve success in other pursuits throughout life.

Additionally, active play can allow children to explore the outdoors and feel a sense of achievement. The “culture of convenience” that the report cites as contributing to low physical activity levels needs to be overcome, and that will happen through a variety of factors.

As this source and others state as well, how parents act in regards to physical activity also has an effect on children. Thus, parents should strive to lead a healthy and active lifestyle so their children are inspired to do likewise. Healthy eating and exercise can lead to better health outcomes and parents should emphasize this to their children as well.

So, as we enjoy the spring and get ready to welcome summer 2014, I wish everyone a safe, active and exciting summer.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.

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