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Canada gets poor grade for kids' activity compared to other countries

Last Updated Nov 16, 2016 at 9:52 am PST


The country is given a D- for overall physical activity

Experts are urging Canadians to make physical activity a way of life

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We’ve had it drilled into us for decades — get out and get fit. But despite all the investment in programs and infrastructure to keep Canadian kids moving, a new report card gives us some pretty poor marks for physical activity compared to dozens of other countries.

“We are doing really well in some areas, but not so well in others,” says Allana Leblanc, an exercise physiologist with ParticipACTION, which released the report card focusing on a number of categories across 38 countries. “For overall physical activity, we get a D-, which puts us in the middle of the pack. For things like sedentary behaviour we are at the back of the pack with an F. Only about one-quarter of kids meet screen time guidelines of less than two hours per day,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Canada is doing better than many countries, however, when it comes to government strategies and investment in infrastructure. “That’s things that are built, such as playgrounds and schools. There are good things going on in those areas. We just aren’t doing well in the behavioural areas,” she adds.

So what is Canada missing that countries like Slovenia — the top-rated country in the report card — are not?

“Slovenia has great grades across the board. Most of their kids are meeting physical activity guidelines because they have a really great school program and testing program to ensure their kids are active and stay active. They took notice in a decline in activity levels and reversed the trend, which we have barely ever seen,” Leblanc explains.

Canadians, she says, need to make physical activity a way of life. “It can’t just be a choice. Sometimes it’s hard for us to choose to be active. It’s a lot of work, we have to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced to get that activity. We really have to shift social norms to make it normal to commute actively — run or walk to school or bike to get your groceries — and that it’s normal for kids to run and play outside.”

That translates to adult behaviour. By getting kids active, Leblanc says it helps get parents moving, too. “Right now we think you need to build it, we need to drive to it and you need to be buckled in safely. Really we should let kids be kids, free- range outside, and making active choices. That’s where we need to go.”

Key Canadian grades and comparisons include:

  • F in Sedentary Behaviours — Slovenia leads with B+, China, Estonia, South Korea, Nigeria, Scotland and South Africa also lag with an F
  • D- in Overall Physical Activity — Slovenia leads with an A-; Belgium, Chile, China, Estonia, Qatar, Scotland and United Arab Emirates lag with an F
  • D in Active Transportation — Netherlands and Zimbabwe lead with an A and A- respectively; United Arab Emirates and United States lag with an F
  • D+ in Active Play — Ghana, Kenya and Netherlands lead with a B; Thailand lags with an F
  • B- in Government Strategies and Investments — Denmark leads with an A-; Mozambique lags with an F
  • B in School — Slovenia leads with an A; Mexico lags with a D-
  • A- in Community and the Built Environment — Netherlands leads with an A; Ghana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe lag with an F