Canadian kids are sitting too much in front of screens, and not getting enough physical activity. Kids who participate in physical activity have more focus and longer attention spans, compared to their less active peers, according to a new report.

Boosting kids’ physical activity levels could be the missing part of the equation in supporting their mental health. The latest findings of the ParticipACTION report gave Canadian kids a D+ grade for their overall level of physical activity, marking a slight improvement from the past four reports where they have received a D-minus grade.

Only 35 per cent of children from the ages of 5 to 17, and 62 per cent of kids from the ages of 3 to 4, are getting the recommended physical activity levels for their age groups. Both groups are also getting more screen time than is recommended; 5- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 17-year-olds in Canada spend 2.3 and 4.1 hours per day, respectively.

Not only does lack of physical activity affects cardiovascular health, muscle strength, sleep, weight and mental health, it also has consequences in the classroom too. Physical activity makes for better, more efficient learners and enhances focus, memory, and recall. Overall, active children and youth make for better achieving students.

The benefits were seen in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders, too.

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that children from the ages of 5 to 17 spend at least 60 minutes day participating in physical activity. For kids from 3 to 4 years old, that number is at least 180 minutes.

Just seven percent of five- to 11-year-olds and four percent of 12- to 17-year-olds get the federal government’s recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.

So how can we get our kids to be more physically active? Here are some ways parents can encourage more physical activity:

Do as I do.

Be a positive role model to your children. If our children see us being active and having fun doing it, they will choose an active way of life too.

Let your child choose.

Some children do well in team sports and are driven by competition such as hockey or soccer, while others prefer a solo sport such as golf, speed skating or martial arts. Understand your child’s strengths and desires, and try to match them up with a sport that they will thrive in.

Unplug.

Limit screen time; turn off the television, video games, and YouTube videos, and get outdoors.  Even just a brisk walk after dinner can do wonders.

Encourage more activity.

Parents can help instill a love of activity and help kids make it a part of their everyday routine. Here are some ways to get more active!

Walk to school

Go on family bike rides

Take up a family sport like tennis

Play dodgeball or basketball at your local school yard

Allow your kids to ride their bikes to the park with friends

Set up a road hockey tournament on your street

Walk to the grocery store instead of driving

Take the stairs instead of elevator

Enroll in a sport like soccer or hockey

Dancing with the stars more appealing? Sign up your child for dance lessons

Check your local community centre for activities, or the YMCA

 

 

Author

Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of amotherworld.com, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

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