Active and Healthy Kids Canada Report Card 2013
Green Action Centre is pleased to forward the release of the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. This year, it is on the subject of Active Transportation and how the rise in car-dependent trips to and from school have impacted childrenâ€™s physical activity levels. Canada's grade? D- !
Are We Driving Our Kids to Unhealthy Habits?
Fewer and fewer kids are getting to places on their own steam. Gone are the days of in-line skating, biking, walking, wheeling and skateboarding to get to and from destinations such as school, parks and shops. In fact, current data suggests that only 25 to 35 per cent of Canadian children and youth walk, bike or wheel to and from school.
Active transportation, an important source of physical activity for children and youth, is on the decline in Canada and it is affecting our childrenâ€™s health. According to the 2013 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, 58 percent of parents walked to school when they were kids, however only 28 per cent of their children walk to school today. In just one decade (2000 to 2010), the proportion of five-to 17-year-olds using only inactive modes of transportation (e.g., bus, train, car) to get to and from school has increased from 51 percent to 62 percent.
The Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, released in partnership with ParticipACTION and the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Childrenâ€™s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO-HALO), assigns a â€˜Dâ€™ grade to Active Transportation this year.
â€œTodayâ€™s youth spend less time walking, and walk shorter distances, than their parents did as children,â€ says Kelly Murumets, President and CEO, ParticipACTION. â€œWith only five per cent of five to 17 year olds meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, it is important to find simple solutions to help increase their physical activity levels. By making small changes to the way we travel to destinations, we can have a big impact on the physical activity levels of our children. Not only will we help get them closer to achieving the recommended Guidelines, but we will also provide opportunities for social engagement with their peers.â€
Increased car time driving long-term unhealthy habits
â€œBy driving our kids to and from their destinations, we may be robbing them of an important source of physical activity, and contributing to lifelong unhealthy habits,â€ says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada. â€œActive transportation presents an easy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to increase physical activity levels among children and youth, and its benefits are significant. In fact, if we encouraged our kids to walk for trips less than a kilometre, they could bank an additional 10 to 15 minutes ofphysical activity per trip!â€
As fewer kids are walking or travelling actively, trips by car are on the rise. Not only does this provide less opportunity for our youth to be active, and learn the value of active transportation, but it also leads to more car traffic in school surroundingsâ€“ ironically by parents who may feel that they are keeping their children safe by driving them to school.
Distance, time constraints and safety are three common barriers to active transportation, with distance between home and school cited as the strongest reason why children and youth do not walk or bike. In todayâ€™s busy world, active transportation is also less likely to be a viable option when parents perceive that driving saves them time (e.g., dropping children to school on the way to work). Road and neighbourhood safety (e.g.,â€œstranger dangerâ€) concerns are other important barriers to active transportation.
â€œActive transportation can easily be integrated into everyday life at little or no cost. Collective action needs to be takenâ€“ by parents and families, policymakers, and schools to ensure that Canadian children and youth are reaping the benefits of active transportation,â€ says Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO, Active Healthy Kids Canada.â€œSchools should consider implementation of safe walk-to-school travel plans and provide bike racks, and government strategies should ensure urban planning that supports safe communities for biking and walking.â€
For more information, or to download the 2013 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, please visit www.activehealthykids.ca