It’s a very sad day and age when parents are encouraged to strap pedometers to their kids to determine if they’re meeting their targets for physical activity.
It seems the days are gone when kids virtually had to be pulled home by their parents after playing sports in their free time. Now, kids are told to accumulate about 12,000 steps a day to maintain healthy physical activity levels, according to research from a children’s hospital in Ontario.
While most people are urged to take about 10,000 steps a day to stay in a healthy zone, children tend to need more activity, hence the additional 2,000 steps.
While the recommendations for tracking kids’ steps throughout the day are logical, it is a reflection of how far we’ve lost our way when it comes to active lifestyles.
Screen time is likely the biggest culprit when it comes to vacuuming up children’s free time, which in the past would likely have been taken up with rigorous exercise. According to Active Healthy Kids Canada, a group that encourages physical activity among kids, children and youth are getting an average of six hours of screen time a day outside of school hours, and more than seven hours on weekend days.
It doesn’t take a doctor to realize all that sedentary behaviour will lead to health problems down the road, including obesity and diabetes. According to Healthy Kids, only nine per cent of boys and four per cent of girls meet the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, which suggest kids should get at least 60 minutes of rigorous, intense exercise a day. However, only 44 per cent of Canadian kids are meeting that standard three days per week, and only 78 per cent are getting 30 minutes of intense physical activity three days a week.
So, what can parents do to change the game, other than strapping a pedometer to the waists of their children? According to Healthy Kids, the period after school is a critical time. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., 59 per cent of kids are sedentary, getting only 14 minutes of moderate to high-intensity activity during this time.
Through encouragement from parents and after-school programs, this can change. According to the group, kids who are outside during the after-school period take about 2,000 more steps a day than those who stay indoors. That’s almost two kilometres more a day.
Coming up with ways to get kids outside in their free time will go miles longer than getting a digital readout of a child’s steps on a pedometer.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.