Canadian kids five and younger are dangerously physically inactive, says the 2010 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.
The sixth annual Report Card reveals that less than half of Canadian kids under five are getting regular physical activity as part of their daily routines. Although international recommendations vary, children between the ages of one and five should participate in at least two hours of physical activity each day, accumulated over many sessions through play, games, active transportation and recreation.
Healthy habits must start young, as lifestyle patterns set in the early years predict obesity and health outcomes in later childhood, and even through adulthood, but the situation on the ground is worrisome, says the report card released Tuesday. It also assigns an F for Federal Government Investment, down from last year's C grade for Federal Government Strategies and Investments.
"We already know that the early years are a critical period of growth and development, but growing evidence tells us that physical activity must be a fundamental part of the early-life experience," says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada. "Studies show that children who are obese before six are likely to be obese later in childhood, and it's estimated that overweight two- to five-year-olds are four times as likely to become overweight as adults. Preschool obesity is on the rise in Canada, yet we do not have physical activity guidelines for children five and under."
"Active play may be fun, but it's not frivolous," says Dr. Tremblay. "In the early years, active play is required for healthy development, as it builds confidence and basic movement skills, and fosters social interaction, imaginations and self-esteem."
Unfortunately, Canadian kids of all ages continue to spend more time on the couch than on the playground, resulting in an F grade for Screen Time for the third year in a row. Disturbingly, 90 per cent of children begin watching TV before their second birthday, even though it is recommended that children under age two get zero screen time. Despite the negative impact of early childhood screen exposure, new e-parenting products continue to surface, and a recent survey shows that four of the 10 best-selling education apps in the iTunes store are aimed at children under four.
As the youngsters age, their physical activity levels are not improving. For the fourth year in a row, the Report Card assigns an F for Physical Activity Levels, as only 12 per cent of Canadian children and youth are meeting Canada's physical activity guidelines of 90 minutes a day.
This year, we see no forward movement towards meeting targets of 17 per cent by 2015, as set out by provincial and territorial government ministers responsible for physical activity, recreation and sport, regrets the report.