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Canadian kids get ‘D’ on physical activity report card

By Skye Bryden-Blom Oct 4, 2022 | 8:15 AM

Vitolda Klein / Unsplash

Canadian children are getting a “D” grade for their overall physical health.

ParticipACTION has released its 2022 Child and Youth Report Card which highlights a “concerning” drop in kids’ movement.

Researcher Dr. Travis Saunders says the pandemic played a huge role as it brought the world to a standstill.

For kids, that meant it was more challenging to participate in active play with friends, while in-person physical education classes and sports competitions came to a halt.

“Children were less active, especially during the height of restrictions,” Saunders tells our newsroom. “So that’s a big reason why the grade is what it is. And screen time also went up for the same reason. Kids were spending obviously an awful lot of time at home.”

He adds not all groups had equal access to outdoor play when restrictions came into effect. Researchers found that car-free street spaces in urban areas tended to be located near households that were without children. Lower-income families were also less likely to participate in organized sports during the pandemic.

The report card has assigned a failing grade for screen time.

“The pivot to virtual learning and calls to stay at home transformed kids’ screens from an indulgence into a necessity for education and socializing, creating even greater concerns for the many ways that screen time depletes our kids’ well-being,” the report says. “It’s no wonder that this year’s grade for screen time is an F, a decrease from a D+ in 2020.”

Saunders says physical activity is super important for kids’ overall health, which is why these grades matter.

He explains kids who are active perform better right across the board from bone health and muscle strength to interpersonal skills.

Saunders adds there were some silver linings outlined in the report card as parents and communities tried to help keep kids moving despite restrictions.

They worked hard to keep sports open, opened up urban spaces for play, and took kids on adventures outside. Due to these efforts, grades increased or held steady for active transportation, active play, and household support for physical activity.

Saunders says a good tip to get the physical activity grade up for the next report card is to reduce screen time.

“One thing that’s standing out in this report card is the recommendation that families have a media plan in terms of when we use screens, how we use screens, and where we use screens,” Saunders says. “So maybe it’s that we don’t use screens at the dinner table, or that we don’t take screens into the bedroom. We charge them overnight in the kitchen.”

He says the biggest thing is to just get kids moving. “All activity is good activity,” according to Saunders.

**With files from Anastasia Payne.**


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