TORONTO (ONTARIO) MAY 21, 2013 – With a steady rise in the use of the car, and a strong decline in kids getting to and from school and after school activities on their own steam, we have to ask ourselves: are we driving our kids to unhealthy habits?
The 2013 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, released today, reports that many Canadian children and youth are driven to and from destinations, and assigns a “D” grade for Active Transportation. Active transportation – walking, biking, wheeling, in-line skating or skateboarding to get to and from places such as school, parks and shops – has long been known to be an important source of physical activity for children and youth1,2,3,4 but has seen a rapid decline in the last generation. While 58 per cent of parents walked to school when they were kids, only 28 per cent of their children walk to school today.5 In addition to this generational shift, 62 per cent of Canadian youth, aged five to 17, use only inactive modes of transportation to get to and from school.6
“By driving our kids to and from their destinations, we may be robbing them of an important source of physical activity, and contributing to lifelong unhealthy habits,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada. “Active transportation presents an easy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to increase physical activity levels among children and youth, and its benefits are significant. In fact, if we encouraged our kids to walk for trips less than a kilometre, they could bank an additional 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity per trip!”
Barriers, such as distance between home and school, as well as safety concerns, have forced our kids into the car and contributed to the decline in active transportation and overall physical activity levels. Today’s fast paced world finds parents are more likely to drive their children to their end destination if they perceive that driving them saves time or is more convenient.7 And while 66 per cent of Canadian adults agree or strongly agree that their neighbourhood is safe for children to walk to and from school, today’s children are less likely to be allowed to walk or bike to neighbourhood destinations without adult supervision.8
“Today’s youth spend less time walking, and walk shorter distances, than their parents did as children,” says Kelly Murumets, President and CEO, ParticipACTION. “With only five per cent of five to 17 year olds meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, it is important to find simple solutions to help increase their physical activity levels. By making small changes to the way we travel to destinations, we can have a big impact on the physical activity levels of our children.
Not only will we help get them closer to achieving the recommended Guidelines, but we will also provide opportunities for social engagement with their peers.”
“Active transportation can easily be integrated into everyday life at little or no cost. Collective action needs to be taken – by parents and families, policymakers, and schools – to ensure that Canadian children and youth are reaping the benefits of active transportation,” says Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO, Active Healthy Kids Canada. “Schools should consider implementation of safe walk-to-school travel plans and provide bike racks, and government strategies should ensure urban planning that supports safe communities for biking and walking.”
Among the 17 grades assigned in the Report Card, key grades include:
- “D” for Active Transportation
- “F” for Sedentary Behaviour
- “C” for Family Physical Activity
- An overall grade of “D-” for Physical Activity Levels
Full copies of the short-form and long-form Report Card, plus free presentations, articles and media materials, can be found at www.activehealthykids.ca.
1 Faulkner GEJ, Buliung RN, Flora PK, Fusco C. Active school transport, physical activity levels and body weight of children and youth: a systematic review. Prev Med. 2009;49:3-8.
2 Larouche R, Saunders T, Faulkner GEJ, Colley RC, Tremblay MS. Associations between active school transport and physical activity, body composition and cardiovascular fitness: a systematic review of 68 studies. J Phys Act Health. 2012. [Epub ahead of print] 3 Lee MC, Orenstein MR, Richardson MC. Systematic review of active commuting to school and children’s physical activity and weight. J Phys Act Health.2008;5(6):930-949.
4 Morency C, Demers M. Active transportation as a way to increase physical activity among children. Child Care Hlth Dev. 2010;36(3):421-427.
5 Stone MR, Mammen G, Faulkner G. Canadian School Travel Planning Intervention Results (National Report). (2010-12). Submitted to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, under the Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP) initiative, and Green Communities Canada. April 1, 2012.
6 Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute. 2010 Physical Activity Monitor. Bulletin 12: Transportation among children and youth. Ottawa: Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute; 2012. www.cflri.ca/node/961.
7 Faulkner GEJ, Richichi V, Buliung RN, Fusco C, Moola F. What’s “quickest and easiest?” Parental decision making about school trip mode. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2010;7:62.
8 Fyhri A, Hjorthol R, Mackett RL, Fotel TN, Kytta M. Children’s active travel and independent mobility in four countries: development, social contributing trends and measures. Transp Pol. 2011;18:703-710.
About the Report Card
The Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth is the most comprehensive annual assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada. Active Healthy Kids Canada works with its strategic partners to develop and disseminate the Report Card. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute’s Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO), works with an interdisciplinary Research Work Group that includes top researchers from across Canada, to ensure that the Report Card includes the most up-to-date evidence about physical activity for children and youth. ParticipACTION provides strategic communications expertise and support to produce and deliver the Report Card.
Production of the Report Card is possible through support from The Lawson Foundation, the George Weston Foundation through its Wonder+Cares funding program, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Loblaw Companies Limited, Cardel Place, the MLSE Foundation and provincial and territorial governments through the Sport Physical Activity and Recreation Committee.
About Active Healthy Kids Canada
Active Healthy Kids Canada is a national charitable organization established in 1994 with a mission to inspire the country to engage all children and youth in physical activity. We provide expertise and direction to policy-makers and the public on how to increase physical activity for Canadian children and youth, and effectively allocate resources and attention to the issue. Our vision is to create a nation of active healthy kids. Advancing knowledge is the cornerstone of our business. Our primary method is the annual Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Through strategic partnerships with funders, governments, non-government organizations, research groups and others, we produce Canada’s most comprehensive yearly assessment of physical activity opportunities for Canadian children and youth.
The Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) is located within the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute (Ottawa, Canada). HALO provides international leadership and research excellence in healthy active living for the promotion of health and wellness in children and youth, including the prevention, management and treatment of obesity. The HALO team is comprised of a multidisciplinary group of research scientists, clinicians, research staff, administrative support personnel, graduate and practicum students, post-doctoral fellows and medical interns and residents. Working with local, provincial, national and international partners and stakeholders, HALO is committed to advancing the understanding and importance of promoting healthy active living, with a mission to preserve, enhance and restore the health and wellness of our most precious resource, our children.
ParticipACTION is the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Originally established in 1971, ParticipACTION was re-launched in 2007 to help prevent the looming inactivity crisis that faces Canada. As a national not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to inspiring and supporting healthy and active living for Canadians, it works with its partners, which include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, to inspire and support Canadians to move more. ParticipACTION is generously supported by Sport Canada. For more information, visit www.participACTION.com.
For more information, copies of the Report Card or b-roll, to schedule an interview or speak to a spokesperson, please contact:
Hill + Knowlton Strategies