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Campaign launched to get students at least one hour of physical activity a day

TORONTO – A coalition of more than 60 organizations on Monday launched a nation-wide campaign to get schools to allocate at least an hour each day as physical activity time for students.

Called “Active at School,” the campaign is spearheaded by Canadian Tire and supported by the federal government.

Partner organizations comprise sports, health and wellness organizations, including the Canadian Olympic Committee and Nike.

The campaign was announced at Toronto’s Ryerson University by Canadian Tire CEO Stephen Wetmore, who said the coalition will spend the next three months speaking with provincial governments.

Wetmore said he hopes a “game plan” will be developed in the next 12 months.

“Then it’s a matter of going to every region, every school board, and specifically, sometimes, schools, to figure out what the exact program is,” Wetmore said.

Small-town schools may lack funding or equipment, he added, while urban schools may have different challenges, such as safety, due to the higher traffic.

It is hoped all schools will be on board by 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary, though that is not a hard deadline, Wetmore said.

Youth inactivity is a growing problem, with one-third being obese and only 12 per cent meeting Health Canada guidelines for physical activity, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said at the announcement.

While physical activity is important for all ages, it is “absolutely crucial” for children, Ambrose said, adding that the federal government has spent more than $200 million in obesity-related research since 2006.

According to a study released in 2011 by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Public Health Agency, obesity costs the economy at least $4.6 billion a year.

The National Hockey League is one of the campaign’s partner organizations, and commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL recognizes the importance of getting youth to be active, with numerous teams already running programs that encourage youth participation.

The partner organizations, the NHL included, can use their reach and visibility to get the message of staying active across, Bettman said.

“What’s not possible is to accomplish a goal if you’re just sitting around,” he said.