We can’t afford to be lazy with kids’ health…

By CHRIS COCHRANE Sports Columnist

Wed. Apr 28 – 4:53 AM

How often must we Canadians receive a thumbs-down on our wretched collective physical fitness level before we genuinely act to fix the problem?

Apparently, we’ve become immune to most of the warnings.

For decades, it should have been impossible to ignore countless stories and reports of how the declining health of adult Canadians will eventually eat up billions of dollars in health-care costs.

In recent years, that same focus has switched to Canadian youth, with several private and public studies about an out-of-shape teenage population that simply isn’t physically active enough to avoid future medical problems.

Now the inevitable has happened. We’re hearing horror stories about the physical conditioning of the youngest part of our population.

A group called Active Healthy Kids Canada has, for several years, issued a report card on the physical fitness levels of Canadian young people. Its stated goal is make physical activity a larger part of our lives and provide intelligent solutions for government and society in this fight. Annually, it tells us what we don’t want to hear.

This week, Active Healthy Kids Canada released its sixth annual report card. And the marks, again, weren’t good. The grade for physical activity levels for Canadian children was another F, something difficult to appreciate in such a rich nation.

Here are a couple of interesting notes about the report, as carried by The Canadian Press, indicating the seriousness of the problem:

“The report card reveals only 12 per cent of Canadian children and youth are getting the 90 minutes recommended for daily physical activity. Meanwhile, young people are continuing to devote considerable time to video games, computers and TV, accumulating six hours of screen time on weekdays and more than seven hours on weekend days,” the report says.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this most recent study is that 15.2 per cent of children as young as two to five years old are already overweight, and 6.3 per cent are obese.

Canadians like studies. We must, we produce so many of them. Both the private and public sector have reams of facts showing the dangers of out-of-shape youth.

Yet, regardless of how many studies are done on this fitness matter and ultimately ignored, the consistent answers haven’t changed. Experts agree a physically active society would be a healthier one and a less expensive group to maintain in terms of health costs.

There are plenty of ways to achieve this. For the kids, mandatory school gym classes, for all grade levels, are essential. Free nutrition, fitness and lifestyle education classes at the community grassroots would be invaluable for everyone. Open and free access to all community recreation facilities would stimulate sports interest at all age levels. Full government refunds on all youth registration costs for enrolling in amateur sport would increase participation. And more intense community education on the dangers of raising kids in front of computers and televisions would help.

Sure, this national conditioner would have a cost. But that cost would be more than covered by the savings realized after thousands of more active Canadians avoid what could have been costly hospital stays and medical procedures because they physically shaped up.

It’s obvious many Canadians can’t do it on their own. They need help. That’s where government comes in, though greater funding for local community centres, school programs and amateur sport activities.

Such spending shouldn’t be hard for any government, provincial or federal, to justify. Sometimes you spend a little money to save a lot more. That’s just smart business. And also smart politics.


Chris Cochrane is a sports columnist with The Chronicle Herald.


One Response

  1. I think that all governments have to look at this problem very carefully. Much of this is due to our lousy diets and needing the exercise like you said above. Good post.

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