Children can be sedentary athletes too

Getting Kids on Bikes. | Wheelies Kids having fun on bikes.
Getting Kids on Bikes. | Wheelies
Kids having fun on bikes.

I’ve written before about sedentary athletes. What’s a sedentary athlete?

In Sedentary Athletes: Sitting & Weighting Nancy Clark writes, “Even competitive athletes who do double workouts often live a sedentary lifestyle. They generally do little but rest and recover during the non-exercise parts of their day.”

Now it turns out that our children may be becoming sedentary athletes too.

Children’s unstructured, outdoor play is under attack on a number of fronts–from busy lifestyles, technological gadgets, the pressure to do well in school, over scheduled lives, fear of injury, fear of strangers, and discomfort in the outside world.

They’re getting some sports participation, as in for example weekly dance classes or soccer games, but they’re lacking everyday movement.

Children may have soccer once or twice a week but that’s nowhere near enough activity if they sit for the rest of the day.

From the Globe and Mail:

While 84 per cent of children who are 3 and 4 years old get the recommended 180 minutes of daily physical activity, the picture changes drastically for older age groups. Only seven per cent of kids ages 5 to 11 and a mere four per cent of those aged 12 to 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity.

Parents in Canada have effectively outsourced their children’s daily physical activity, said Elio Antunes, president and CEO of ParticipACTION, one of the report’s strategic partners.

“Canadian parents look to structured activities to get their kids moving,” he said. “We have the facilities, we have the playgrounds, we have the arenas, we have the programs. What we’re not doing so well is the spontaneous play aspect. Kids are just not playing within their free time. Their free time is being used primarily with screen time as opposed to active time.”

The report found that 75 per cent of kids aged 5 to 19 participate in organized physical activities or sport. As well, 79 per cent of parents in Canada contribute financially to their kids’ physical activities, whether it is to buy equipment or pay fees.

However, only 37 per cent of parents play actively – often – with their children.

Dr. Tremblay blames a “culture of convenience,” in which parents drive their kids to school because it is easier than having them ride bicycles or walk. Parents will even drive their kids to playgrounds because it takes less time than walking, he said.

And the National Post:

The results come despite findings that there are ample places for kids to break a sweat, with 95% of Canadian parents reporting local availability of parks and outdoor spaces and 94 reporting local availability of public facilities and programs for physical activity like pools, arenas and leagues.

The vast majority of Canadian students have regular access to a gym (95%), playing fields (91%) and areas with playground equipment (73%) during school hours.

Despite the presence of established policies, places and programs designed to help kids get moving, the report pointed to what it described as a “culture of convenience” to account for why many Canadian kids aren’t more active.

“Our country values efficiency — doing more in less time — which may be at direct odds with promoting children’s health,” a portion of the short-form report reads.

In a bid to boost the daily physical activity levels for all kids, the report encourages a mix of activities throughout the day that encompass sport, active play and active transportation.

See our past posts on this, Kids these days! and Families and fitness.

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