Kids today don’t move enough and it’s hurting both their body and brain development, says a new report by ParticipACTION, the non-profit group that promotes active and healthy living. Fewer than one-fifth of children meet minimum expectations for healthy daily activity and sleep.
ParticipACTION has highlighted the importance of exercise in maintaining a healthy body for decades, and its 2018 report card gives Canadian kids a D+ for physical activity. This year, the report includes a special focus on how physical activity impacts mental health and brain development.
While the grades were better for participation in organized sports (B) and sleep (B+), the report highlights several areas of concern, including sedentary behaviour (D). The worst showing was an F grade for 24-hour movement, which measures overall sleep, activity levels, and sedentary time.
The report cites extensive research that indicates physical activity helps those with conditions like ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, and that kids who exercise more have better focus and longer attention spans than less active kids.
As well, the report says outdoor activity is great at relieving stress and physical activity is beneficial to brain development. Exercise has also been shown to help children deal with issues like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
The report suggests educators, healthcare professionals, and government officials should all encourage Canadians to make healthier lifestyle choices. As well, ParticipACTION recommends parents model active lifestyles for their children and suggests families should be active together.
Along with increasing their physical activity, the report recommends decreasing the amount of time children spend not moving or looking at a screen. Longer and more frequent screen time is associated with decreased physical fitness, as well as lower emotional and social health. Parents should avoid punishing children by removing opportunities for them to be active and go outside, noting that movement is important to a child’s development and leads to better behaviour.
ParticipACTION offers two versions of its annual report card: a summary that includes grades, key facts and recommendations, and the full report, which includes methodology and more in-depth analysis.
Both can be found at participaction.com/en-ca/thought-leadership/report-card/2018.