Former Olympian slams new fitness guidelines
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, January 5, 2011 8:09PM EST
Former Olympic rower and children's advocate Silken Laumann doesn't think much of pending changes to Canada's fitness guidelines, charging that the country needs a reality check when it comes to the issue of rising obesity.
"The facts haven't changed. We have a tremendous amount of Canadian kids overweight or obese," Laumann said on CTV's Power Play. "We haven't flattened the curve on obesity yet -- and here we are lowering our goals."
Experts are planning to issue new exercise recommendations that ease some of the pressure on Canadians of all ages.
Children will be asked to aim for 60 minutes of physical activity per day under the new guidelines, down from 90 minutes. For adults, the recommendations will be cut back from an hour daily to 150 minutes weekly. Standards for seniors will also be lowered: from 30-60 minutes per day, to 150 minutes of moderate activity a week.
The hope is that the lower standards will encourage more Canadians to be active by making the targets easier to achieve.
But Laumann, who works with the children's groups Right to Play and the Goodlife Kids Foundation, described the new scheme as dangerous because it may give people "the sense that we're making progress, that we're achieving our goals -- and we're not," she said.
"Kids are more overweight than ever. Type 2 diabetes is rising in just astronomical proportions, and I think we have to continue to give people reality checks on this."
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the group in Canada that's responsible for fitness research, will issue the new physical activity recommendations on Jan. 24.
Audrey Hicks, the president of the CSEP and a professor at McMaster University says the changes do not mean that standards are being lowered for Canadians.
"Let me very clear: we're not lowering the bar for physical activity. What the new guidelines will reinforce is that measurable health benefits can be attained at lower levels of physical activity than previously thought," she told CTV News Channel.
"We're not asking Canadians to do less. In fact, doing more activity will always offer more health benefits."
Kelly Murumets, the president and CEO of ParticipACTION, the national non-profit organization that promotes physical activity, says Canada is "in a physical inactivity crisis," so encouraging Canadians to move even a little bit more would be progress.
"We've learned that Canadians are so sedentary that even with really low levels of physical activity, we start to realize measurable health benefits," she told CTV News Channel Wednesday.
"Only 12 per cent of our kids meet the daily physical activity guidelines and more than half of us are physically inactive. So that's a crisis and what we need to do is get off the couch and get moving more."
The new guidelines are based on a review of a number of studies that concluded that health benefits can be achieved with less physical activity.
Along with the guidelines for how much activity Canadians should aim for will be recommendations for the maximum amount of time that should be spent in sedentary activities, such as watching TV.
The CSEP is planning a public information campaign in partnership with ParticipAction to get the message out to Canadians to get moving. The campaign will stress that some physical activity is better than none, though more is better.
It will also recommend Canadians engage in mostly aerobic activity, as well as muscle and bone strengthening activities, and flexibility activities, such as yoga.
The "moderate intensity" activity can include everything from raking leaves to brisk walking, or swimming. This could be achieved in a variety of ways, such as 30 minutes five days a week or in fewer, longer bouts.
The CSEP says the new guidelines will put Canada in line with standards set by the World Health Organization and other major developed countries like the United States, Australia and Britain.
Murumets says increasing physical activity doesn't have to be complicated.
"We know Canadians tell us that you don't have enough time. We know they're telling us they're too exhausted to go to the gym and work out," she said. "So we're not asking you to don spandex and head to the gym or get your kids to head to the gym; we're asking you to build physical activity into your everyday world.
"So if you take public transit, jump off one or two stop earlier and walk the difference. It really won't take a whole lot more time but you'll get measurable health benefits."