Fewer kids commuting by foot, bike, report finds
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013 7:11AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 21, 2013 10:00AM EDT
Are we driving our kids to unhealthy habits? That’s what a new report asks readers, as it details how Canadian schoolchildren are more likely to be driven to and from school and to after-school activities than they were in generations past.
Active Healthy Kids Canada has just released its latest report card on physical activity for children and youth and assigns a “D” grade for Active Transportation.
It says while 58 per cent of parents walked to school when they were kids, only 28 per cent of their children do so today.
As well, a full 62 per cent of Canadian youth aged five to 17 use only “inactive modes” of transportation to get to and from school, meaning they take a bus or are otherwise driven.
Kelly Murumets, the president and CEO of ParticipACTION, which supports Active Healthy Kids Canada in delivering the annual report card, says that by driving kids to school and to sports, parents are robbing their kids of an opportunity to get a little more exercise into their days.
She says that only five per cent of five to 17 year olds currently meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, so it’s important to find simple ways to help them increase their activity levels.
“If kids just walked, wheeled or cycled to school, there and back, every day, they would accumulate 20 or 30 more minutes of physical activity every day. And that them straight onto that road of achieving the 60 minutes of physical activity that kids need every single day,” Murumets told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
The report says research shows that parents are more likely to drive their children to their destination if they believe that driving them will save time or be more convenient.
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.
Jennifer Cowie Bonne, the CEO of Active Healthy Kids Canada, says schools can help too by organizing safe walk-to-school travel plans, as well as provide bike racks outside their buildings.
As well, she says government strategies should ensure urban planning supports safe communities for biking and walking.
Overall, the report card assigns Canadian children a D- for physical activity levels, including a
C for Family Physical Activity and an F for Sedentary Behaviour
Murumets says parents need to take physical activity seriously and ensure that kids are spending more time outside playing and less time indoors fooling around on cellphones, video games and watching TV.
“Physical activity is not frivolity,” she says.
“It’s something that will make their kids healthier, smarter, they’ll do better socially – there are so many ancillary benefits of physical activity. It’s really a magic elixir.”