Are We Driving Our Kids to Unhealthy Habits?

Fewer and fewer kids are getting to places on their own steam.  Gone are the days of in-line skating, 
biking,walking, wheeling and skateboarding to get to and from destinations such as school, parks 
and shops.In fact, current data suggests that only 25 to 35 per cent of Canadian children and youth
 walk, bike or wheel to and from school. 
Active transportation, an important source of physical activity for children and youth is on the decline 
in Canada and it is affecting our children’s health. According to the 2013 Active Healthy Kids 
Canada Report Card, 58 per cent of parents walked to school when they were kids, however 
only 28 per cent of their children walk to school today. In just one decade (2000 to 2010), the 
proportion of five - to 17-year-olds using only inactive modes of transportation (e.g., 
bus, train, car) to get to and from school has increased from 51per cent to 62 per cent.
The Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, released in partnership with ParticipACTION 
and the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of 
Eastern Ontario (CHEO-HALO), assigns a ‘D’ grade to Active Transportation this year.
“Today’s youth spend less time walking, and walk shorter distances, than their parents did 
as children,” says Kelly Murumets, President and CEO, ParticipACTION. “With only five 
per cent of five to 17 year olds meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, it is 
important to find simple solutions to help increase their physical activity levels. By making 
small changes to the way we travel to destinations, we can have a big impact on the physical 
activity levels of our children. Not only will we help get them closer to achieving the 
recommended Guidelines, but we will also provide opportunities for social engagement 
with their peers.”

Increased car time driving long-term unhealthy habits

“By driving our kids to and from their destinations, we may be robbing them of an important
 source of physical activity, and contributing to lifelong unhealthy habits,” says Dr. Mark 
Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada. “Active transportation 
presents an easy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to increase physical 
activity levels among children and youth, and its benefits are significant. In fact, if we 
encouraged our kids to walk for trips less than a kilometre, they could bank an additional 
10 to 15 minutes of physical activity per trip!”
As fewer kids are walking or travelling actively, trips by car are on the rise. Not only does 
this provide less opportunity for our youth to be active, and learn the value of active 
transportation, but it also leads to more car traffic in school surroundings – ironically by 
parents who may feel that they are keeping their children safe by driving them to school.
Distance, time constraints and safety are three common barriers to active transportation, 
with distance between home and school cited as the strongest reason why children and 
youth do not walk or bike. In today’s busy world , active transportation is also less likely 
to be a viable option when parents perceive that driving saves them time (e.g., dropping 
children to school on the way to work). Road and neighbourhood safety (e.g., “stranger 
danger”) concerns are other important barriers to active transportation.
“Active transportation can easily be integrated into everyday life at little or no cost. 
Collective action needs to be taken – by parents and families, policymakers, and schools – 
to ensure that Canadian children and youth are reaping the benefits of active transportation,” 
says Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO, Active Healthy Kids Canada.  “Schools should consider 
implementation of safe walk-to-school travel plans and provide bike racks, and government 
strategies should ensure urban planning that supports safe communities for biking 
and walking.”
For more information, or to download the 2013 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, please visit