We all want to raise active, healthy kids. According to Active Healthy Kids Canada, however, we’re not doing as well as we could. They released their 2013 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth last month, and they found that there has been no improvement observed in the physical activity levels of children and youth aged five to seventeen years. Only five percent of Canadian kids are meeting the guidelines for the recommended amount of daily physical activity.
One of the areas that the report card highlights is active transportation, like walking, cycling, wheeling, rollerblading or skateboarding. Apparently we’re all spending too much time in the car, which is why the report card gave active transportation a D grade. But what can we do about it? Toronto Mom Now recently connected with Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO of Active Healthy Kids Canada, to find out.
Jennifer says that the report card answers the question, “How well are we doing as a country at helping kids find opportunities to be active?” She points out that 58% of parents say they walked to school as children, while only 28% of their kids do. As parents today we face a lot of challenges. Busy work schedules, safety concerns, and kids who attend school outside of walking or cycling distance conspire to make it much easier to hop in the car than lace up your runners. But Jennifer challenges us to re-consider our situations, saying, “Do a check to see whether your barriers to active transportation are real or perceived.”
Set a Habit
Maybe you really can’t walk to school every day. If that’s the situation, Jennifer suggests walking one or two days a week, or walking elsewhere. She points out that any one kilometer walk adds 15 minutes of activity to your day. Plus, walking is free. Kids’ activities can be expensive, and schedules can be difficult to juggle, but anyone who can find 15 or 20 minutes can go for a walk with their kids.
With summer on its way here in Toronto, this is a great time to set the habit of walking. You may not be walking to school, but consider where else you can head on two legs or two wheels. Jennifer says, “Kids’ activities will change all the time. Getting around under your own steam is a habit that will last a lifetime.” She also suggests building time for unstructured play into your children’s day, saying, “Not every minute needs to be scheduled.” Once kids get outside, they’ll naturally engage in active play.
As for the safety concerns, Jennifer suggests starting small. Teach your kids about safety. Practice walking to and from school with your kids on weekends or evenings if you can’t do it on weekdays. Find others to walk with, so that your children aren’t alone. And get your school involved. Jennifer says, “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 cycling and walking.”
How do you build active transportation into your life with kids? Please leave a reply and share your tips.