Canadian children and youth are sitting more and moving less.

Active Healthy Kids Canada released its annual report card on physical activity Tuesday, calling the typical Canadian lifestyle “overdeveloped.”

This is the 10th year the report card has revealed low grades for Canadian children and youth, but it is also the first year Active Healthy Kids Canada has put the marks in a global perspective. In an effort to determine what works and what doesn’t, the report compared the results of 14 different countries from around the world.

The results showed that Canada was a leader in organized physical activity through school or community participation, but these facts are not helping children and youth become more active.

For overall physical activity, the report places Canada squarely at the bottom with a letter grade of D-, alongside other developed nations like Austria (D-), Ireland (D-), the United States (D-), and Scotland (F).

The report places Mozambique and New Zealand at the top, with a B letter grade. It notes that New Zealand attributes its overall physical activity grade to their “active play” philosophy. After banning all safety-based playground rules, the country found that children were more active and that there was less bullying and vandalism at schools.

By comparing these results, it can be concluded that Canada’s structured and organized play may be an impediment on overall physicality.

“Our society values efficiency -- we build more, do more and impose more structure -- but perhaps this approach is somewhat misguided when it comes to getting kids more active,” Mark Tremblay, of Active Healthy Kids Canada, said in a statement. “A child’s day is so structured that there is no room for free play or walking or biking to school.”

The report also attributes Canada’s low grade to the “culture of convenience.”

A survey shows that 62 per cent of parents said their kids ages 5-11 are always driven to and from school, whether by car, bus, or other forms of non-active transportation. This same age group will spend an average of 7.6 hours sedentary.

While Canada does place well in organized sport participation, it isn’t enough to offset the hours of sitting children do at home and at school. Less children are walking, biking, or running to school, and instead just go from one sedentary environment to the next.

Guy Faulkner, a U of T professor and member of the research working group for the 2014 report card, told CTV News Channel that the loss of spontaneous play was a critical component of Canada’s low grade in the annual report card.

“We tend to put our kids in front of screens in a manner, to supervise them in an activity that is safe,” he said.

The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend two hours or less of screen time for school-aged children and youth a day, a goal that seems unfathomable in today’s tech-savvy environment.

The most positive statistic in the report cites that 84 per cent of kids between the ages of three and four are meeting the required guidelines of 180 minutes of activity per day. However, only seven per cent of children ages 5-11 meet the required amount of daily exercise -- which is reduced to 60 minutes after the age of five. And even fewer youth (4%) meet these requirements at ages 12-17.

On a global scale, an analysis of 105 countries found that only 20 per cent of 11-15-year-olds reported doing 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

Canada has steadily received dismal grades in overall physical activity. From 2007-2012, the report gave Canada a failing grade (F).

The report encourages a mixture of physical activities throughout the day, including sport, active play and active transportation as the solution to these low letter grades.

Canada’s Report Card: D- in overall physical activity

  • B+ in community and built environment
  • C+ in school
  • C+ in organized sport participation
  • D in active transportation
  • F in sedentary behaviour
  • C in family and peers
  • C in government strategic investment
  • Inconclusive data for active play