Canada is among the leaders in our relatively sophisticated policies, places and programs, with a B+ in Community and the Built Environment, a C+ in School and a C+ in Organized Sport Participation:
95% of parents report local availability of parks and outdoor spaces, and 94% report local availability of public facilities and programs for physical activity, such as pools, arenas and leagues.
There is a physical education (PE) curriculum in place at schools in every province and territory, and most students have regular access to a gymnasium (95%), playing fields (91%) and areas with playground equipment (73%) during school hours.
75% of Canadian kids aged 5-19 participate in organized physical activities or sport. Unfortunately, even though we excel in these areas, Canada’s Overall Physical Activity levels are at a D-, clustered near the back of the pack with Australia (D-), Ireland (D-), the United States (D-) and Scotland (F).
Even though 84% of Canadian kids aged 3-4 are active enough to meet guidelines, this falls to only 7% of kids meeting guidelines at ages 5-11, and only 4% meeting guidelines at ages 12-17.
The question is, if our policies, places and programs are well developed, why is this not translating into enough activity for our kids? It seems that we have built it, but they are not coming.
Canada lags behind most of the international group in Active Transportation (D) and Sedentary Behaviours (F): 62% of Canadian parents say their kids aged 5-17 years are always driven to and from school (by car, bus, transit, etc.).
Canadian kids aged 3-4 spend 5.8 hours a day being sedentary, those aged 5-11 spend 7.6 hours and those aged 12-17 spend 9.3 hours. Why are our kids sitting more and moving less? The answer requires a hard look at our culture of convenience. For most Canadians, the socially acceptable walking distance to school is less than 1.6 km, and distance between home and school is the single most reported reason why kids do not walk or bike to get there. In Finland, however, 74% of children who live between 1-3 km from school use active transport, and nearly all children living 1 km or less from their school commute actively. Finland is a world leader with a B in Active Transportation, in part because its social norms differ dramatically.