It’s no secret Canadian kids aren’t as active as they could be. And now, according to a new study, they may be among the least active youngsters on the planet.
ParticipAction gave Canadian kids a D- on their annual report card, released last June, grading their level of physical activity. It was the fourth consecutive year Canadians scored a grade above a failing mark. Researchers estimate just 9% of kids from ages five to 17 get the recommended hour of “heart-pumping activity” a day.
The new ParticipAction study, released yesterday, put Canada’s kids against youths from 37 other countries. Canada was near the bottom of the list, alongside other developed countries like Australia, England, Spain and the United States.
Slovenia received the highest grade in the world, a mark of A-: 86 per cent of boys, and 76 per cent of girls get their recommended daily physical activity.
There were 26 countries that earned a D or worse; Belgium, Chile, China, Qatar and Scotland were among those with an F. Interestingly, kids in developed countries generally scored lower than those from developing countries.
“This is a paradox,” says lead researcher Dr. Mark Tremblay, who points to developing countries having better social and cultural connections to being active than countries like Canada.
“You can build all the infrastructure and policies and programs and so on that you want but if it’s not something that is internally valued and normative, or even the default behaviour, then it’s just not going to happen.”
He also noted that too much screen time, and not enough free, unstructured play as another factor of the poor results for Canadian kids.
The cold Canadian winter is another one that’s always coming up “in the excuse bucket.”
“Maybe Canadians just can’t handle the cold as well as we used to, or as well as Finnish people currently do, or Swedish people currently do, or Danish people currently do,” says Tremblay, who’s also the director of the healthy active living and obesity research group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.
“Our norm is to drive even very short distances in any inclement weather because we might get wet, we might get cold, we might get snow on us, whatever. And it’s not the case in other parts of the world that are comparable.”
Tremblay did note that Canada ranked relatively high in some individual markers. Canadians scored an A- for community and environment, and had solid B’s for organized sports and school.