Inactivity is a problem in Canada, as well as in the U.S. A study conducted by the Toronto-based non-profit youth sports advocacy group ParticipACTION found that Canadian adults spend an average of 9.5 hours per day being sedentary. Children between 5 and 17 were only a little more active: Canadian kids in this age group spend an average of 8.5 hours per day sitting still.
ParticipACTION’s Impact Report 2015 said the group, which has been in existence since the 1970s – and has therefore witnessed a strong decline in physical activity among Canadians -- is moving from raising awareness to enabling and measuring behavior change, particularly sedentary behavior. ParticipACTION hopes to contribute to 10 percent of Canadians sitting less and moving more by 2020.
“We will expand our reach to include inactive Canadians of all ages who want help getting started. In children and youth, we will focus on building competency and providing opportunities to be active, so kids can gather the skills and confidence required to be active for life,” wrote the report’s authors. “And in adults—who are our children’s most important role models—we will focus on helping the generally inactive move from no activity, or very little activity, to something more.”
One way to encourage “something more,” according to the non-profit, is to encourage kids into more non-traditional sports and fitness activities. Convincing a kid who doesn’t like team sports to pick up a hockey stick or a basketball is probably a fruitless endeavor, but convincing that same kids to participate in roller derby, dodgebow or paddleboard yoga might be a hit.
“In a recent poll conducted by ParticipACTION, only 17 percent of Canadians have tried a ‘weird sport,’ but nearly half said they would like to try one,” blogged ParticipACTION’s Katherine Janson. “Sport not only provides us the opportunity to be physically active, it also provides us with the opportunity to build community, make friends, learn life lessons and reduce stress.”
Whatever a kid’s choice of sport, ParticipACTION recommends 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity each week, similar to what health advocates in the U.S. recommend.
“These days, Canadians across the country are taking the best elements of traditional sport and combining them to form unique and unconventional ways to get active,” wrote Janson.
What’s important, experts say, is that kids (as well as adults) find an activity that they enjoy, otherwise it will be difficult to maintain a regular fitness routine. Self-paced activities such as paddleboard yoga or nighttime headlamp trail running, may be ideal for kids who don’t wish to (or aren’t able to) engage in team play.
2015 has been designated “A Year in Sport” in Canada, and public health advocates and youth athletics personnel are making a big push to turn kids off video games and on to physical activity, at least for a few hours a week. While childhood obesity has plateaued in Canada (as in the U.S.), it still stands at an unhealthy 13 percent. While the rates are lower than those in the U.S., where 17.5 percent of youth are considered obese, experts are looking for ways to lower the physical, emotional, mental and social impact of unhealthy life styles.