Get out and play this summer

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Canada Safety Council

No more teachers, no more books…school is out for the summer!

Now that the kids are out of school for the summer, and the weather is warmer, what are your plans to keep them active? Sadly, not enough Canadian children are being active, even though it is part of a healthy lifestyle. A study by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute shows that children in Canada do not get enough physical activity on a daily basis.

Active play is critical for the healthy development of children. Regularly being active helps children build social skills, imaginations, and self-esteem. Research shows that lifestyle patterns set before the age of five predict health outcomes in later childhood and through adulthood, while staying active on a regular basis is the key to a healthy lifestyle.

According to the 2010 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, only 12 per cent of Canadian children and youth are meeting the guidelines set forth by Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines of at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Girls, in particular, tend to be less active than boys, with only five per cent of adolescent girls meeting the guidelines. However, 20 per cent of boys aged five to 10, as well as 15 per cent of boys aged 11 to 14, meet the guidelines.

These Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, released by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), state that children (5-11 years) and youth (12-17 years) require at least 60 minutes of moderate - to vigorous -intensity activity per day. It’s important to keep in mind that these guidelines should be the bare minimum. Canadians should try to exceed the minimum activity levels recommended. The health benefits will be greater if the physical activity, intensity, and duration are varied.

Vigorous-intensity activities are particularly great for getting the most benefit out of physical activity, as are muscle and bone strengthening activities. Children and youth should do these at least three days per week, as part of their 60 minutes per day. Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause children and youth to sweat and be ‘out of breath’. These activities include, but are not limited to, running, swimming, and rollerblading. Bike riding and brisk walking, though they may occasionally be cause to break a sweat, are considered to be moderate-intensity physical activities.

The CSEP also released the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines which recommend that children (5 to 11 years) and youth (12 to 17 years) limit sedentary time, meaning that they should limit the time spent in front of a computer or television screen to no more than two hours per day. Sedentary transport, prolonged sitting, and time spent indoors throughout the day should also be limited. Spending less time being immobile can help children and teens to maintain a healthy body weight, perform better in school, and improve their self-confidence.

How parents can help keep their children active:

- Determine a time limit for watching TV, playing video games, and/or playing on the computer. The current recommendation is up to two hours daily. Limiting screen time creates more opportunities for active play.

- Keep televisions out of your child’s bedroom.                                               

- Use active transportation to get to and from places if possible. Walking with your kids is a great way for both of you to incorporate physical activity into your day. Riding a bike or rollerblading is also great active transportation.          

- Encourage your children to get involved in sports teams or clubs within the community, and at school.

- Get your children involved in active chores around the house, such as raking, vacuuming and gardening.

- During summer vacation, make sure that you have plenty of toys and sports equipment on hand that encourage active play, such as basketballs, soccer balls, jump rope, squirt guns, etc.

- Plan outings to the local pool, playground, or tennis courts.

- On days that it is raining or too hot to go outside, play active games inside. Even video games that get you moving are great, such as Nintendo Wii™ games, Kinect for Xbox 360 games or Playstation® Move games.

- Set a good example for your children. Get moving yourself, and chances are your child will follow.

Canada Safety Council wishes you a safe and active summer, and always remember to wear your sunscreen anytime you are in the sun!

Organizations: Canada Safety Council

Geographic location: Canada

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