Our kids are failing at fitness: Why? (Sam has some ideas)

The news seems to be the same each year, another bad grade for Canadian children and fitness. See “Canada’s kids receive a D+ for overall physical activity levels. Find out how we can improve the grade in the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card at”

What’s the issue? Over the years we’ve been thinking and writing about this we’ve had some ideas and suggestions. Here’s six of them:

First, we should think in terms of everyday movement, not exercise.

Second, we shouldn’t police gender and kids sports.

Third, we should stop protecting children and allow them to take risks.

Fourth, we shouldn’t assume that because kids do sports that they get enough activity in their lives.

Fifth, we should let girls do active things like ride bikes.

Six, we should think about physical activity broadly, not just running, but also playing outside.

A silhouette of children playing. Photo by Rene Bernal on Unsplash

Have you forgiven Participaction? Sam hasn’t yet…

In theory I ought to like Participaction. I’ve been going to write and say nice things about their movement based activity encouragement programs.

Their list of 18 resolutions to make in 2018 is pretty good.

Here’s some text from them about 2018:

“This is the year to take charge and make change. We love the start of a fresh new year. It’s a time when many resolve to make positive changes, like exercising more. Yes! But, despite our best intentions, we often fall short. We lose momentum, motivation dries up, and too often, we end up right back where we started. This is where ParticipACTION comes in.”

If you’re not Canadian you might not know what they are all about: “ParticipACTION is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to help Canadians sit less and move more. Originally established in 1971, ParticipACTION works with its partners, which include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, to make physical activity a vital part of everyday life.”

What’s to dislike?

And yet, I feel guilty and judged each time I look at their website. That’s weird. I’m a super active Canadian. I might even be one of the 1 in 5 Canadians who meets the weekly recommended amount of physical activity. I love their focus on outdoor activity, inclusive fitness, joyful movement across generations. There’s little (maybe no?) talk about weight loss on their website. They ought to be my people. And yet…

What’s going on then?

In truth, I haven’t forgiven them yet for the Canada Fitness Test which I failed each year through elementary school and I took that failure to heart.

The Canada Fitness Award Program was a national fitness test and evaluation program operated by the Government of Canada department Health and Welfare Canada from 1970 to 1992. It ended ten years after I graduated high school and it was replaced by something much more my speed, the active living challenge.

I don’t think Aimée has forgiven them either. You can abut her experiences in her post about finally coming to think of herself as athletic.

I was the kind of kid who loved school. I thought tests were a great idea. Give me a test and I do well on it. I had test taking down pat. I loved teachers too. I even tried at one point to run away and join the nuns who taught me.

But the fitness test? I cried every year, I think. It taught me that some people were athletic and others were not. I was not.

Here’s the test:

Pushups. No time limit. Maximum continuous reps.

10m Shuttle Run

Situps No time limit. Maximum continuous reps.

Standing Long Jump

50m Run

1-mile run

Flexed-arm hang for time

It was the flexed arm hang that did me in every year!

Here’s Jess and Chantal, two people like me, who failed the test as kids recreating it.

Here’s a defence of the test including a score sheet so you can take the test and rank yourself

From 1985

Do you remember the Canada Fitness Test? How’d you do? Scarred for life or not?