Do you find that since the pandemic began, your kids are spending less time getting active? You’re not alone. ParticipACTION launched its Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth last week for April, and the results are grim. Only 39% of children ages 5-17 are meeting national guidelines of getting 60 minutes a day of vigorous activity.
In some ways, this is unsurprising. With playdates cancelled, schools closed, and playgrounds off-limits, ways for kids to get active has been very limited. This is especially true for children who live in apartment complexes, or areas without a backyard or limited private areas to play outside. Without school, sedentary screen time may increase as children are stuck inside and unoccupied while parents are working.
Dr. Leigh Vanderloo, an exercise scientist with ParticipACTION, mentions that exercise can play a huge protective role in mental health. “What we often overlook are the benefits to mental health. So dealing with stress, resiliency, symptoms of depression and anxiety. As well as cognitive, how kids think and learn,” she said.
Concern for mental health is especially relevant right now, when families are facing dramatic upheaval and uncertainty.
On the positive side, as the province begins to reopen, so do opportunities for children to get active. Public pools, parks, and splash pads are now open in most regions, and social circles have increased to 10, opening some limited opportunities for play dates.
Vanderloo also suggests to parents what she describes as co-participation. “Actually engage in the activity with them. So kicking a ball with them, going on an after-dinner walk with them, that’s what we’re seeing is probably the biggest source of influence.”
What is your family doing to get active?
For the full ParticipACTION report, see here: https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/resources/children-and-youth-report-card
To learn more about our LEAP study for parents of school-aged children, which studies how factors like physical activity protect from the negative impacts of school closures, see here: http://www.leapstudy.ca/