Is Canada in the Running? The 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth

On Day One of the Global Summit on the Physical Activity of ChildrenActive Healthy Kids Canada released the 10th edition of its Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth. This year the Report Card offered a view, not only of Canada’s results in promoting activity in kids, but offered a look at the status of child and youth activity in 14 other countries including Mexico, Kenya, Ireland, Australia and the United States. 

These reports were analyzed to create a global matrix that shows both the strengths and deficiencies in participating countries' efforts regarding physical activity based on nine key indicators including Community and Built Environment, Sedentary Behaviour, Active Transportation and Overall Physical Activity

Canada's report card is titled "Is Canada in the Running?" The answer, in considering the global matrix, is that we are both leading AND lagging in our efforts to support kids in achieving active lifestyles. Notably, Canada scored well on Community and Built Environment (think parks, playgrounds) with a B+ but was at the bottom of the pack in regards to active transportation (walking/biking to school for example) and received a failing grade in sedentary behaviour (with a high level of things like recreational screen time). The Canadian grade for overall physical activity was a D -, far behind countries like Mozambique and New Zealand, who also shared reports for the matrix. 

What does this mean for Canada? One finding of the report is that we may need to reconsider how (and how much) we structure play in Canada. Dr. Mark Tremblay, who presented the global matrix during the Summit's opening session, noted that, while we've built it, they have not come. Canada has done a good job in creating places and spaces for kids to be active, but we may need to think about the level of restriction and structure associated with these environments, which may hamper freedom and fun and discourage kids from taking advantage of the resources. 

Another result of this global approach to evaluating physical activity for children is an opportunity to see the variation of each country's scoring across all nine indicators. While each country has areas that require attention, they also stand as examples in other areas, offering a real opportunity for the cross-fertilization of ideas and tactics for encouraging increased activity, says Tremblay. There is much we can learn from each other.

Looking forward to a chance to exchange ideas and be inspired by the over 800 delegates, from 32 countries, who are taking part in the summit!