Like their parents, North American teens have become too sedentary. According to Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, teens should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily, but most are not.
The 2014 Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth by Active Healthy Kids Canada gave our kids a D minus for overall physical activity. It found that:
- Only 4% of kids ages 12-17 are meeting guidelines.
- Inactivity significantly worsens as children grow older, and teenagers, especially teen girls, are less active now than they ever have been.
- Kids aged 12-17 spend 9.3 hours a day being sedentary.
What are the Consequences?
- According to the New England Journal of Medicine, kids who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing heart disease as adults-- even if they lose the weight in adulthood.
- Teens are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes-- a disease linked to obesity and previously only found in middle-aged adults. Type 2 diabetes can cause heart disease, blindness, amputation, kidney disease and sexual dysfunction.
- Kids who are obese are at greater risk of developing arthritis at a very young age. Due to too little milk, sunshine and exercise kids are developing diseases like osteoporosis and even rickets- a disease rampant in the 19th century.
- Kids who are overweight are prone to depression, anxiety, self-esteem problems and body image issues.
- Because of the growing incidence of obesity in kids, the children in each successive generation could be sicker than their parents.
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, being active for at least 60 minutes daily can help teens:
- Improve their health
- Do better in school
- Improve their fitness
- Grow stronger
- Have fun playing with friends
- Feel happier
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Improve their self-confidence
- Learn new skills
What Can Parents Do?
In their book, The Overweight Child: Promoting Fitness and Self Esteem, authors Teresa Pitman and Miriam Kaufman offer some strategies to encourage your kids to get up and go:
- Start with yourself. Kids who are active are happier and healthier. But getting the kids off the couch can be hard, especially if their parents are sitting right beside them.
- Take it slow. Nobody likes change, so don't suddenly force your kids to eat rice cakes and sprouts. Make gradual changes in your diet by cooking your own meals together and limiting fast food runs. You are in charge of the food in the house, so if you don't buy it, they can't eat it - and neither can you.
- When they say: "I want to watch my show"......Try: "Television is off-limits to all of us." Set a good example and watch less TV yourself. The kids may even follow your lead. Instead of everyone flopping on the couch after dinner, go outside.
- When they say: "I'm too tired"......Tell them: "Exercise and eating well can boost your energy." Children who don't eat a proper diet and get enough exercise have lower energy levels. Set a good example by giving your family a well-balanced diet that includes the four basic food groups. Avoid fatty, sugary, processed foods that add empty calories.
Active Healthy Kids Canada recommends more ways to get them moving:
- Do not drive them. Only 24% of Canadian teens walk or bike to school.
- Put away your wallet and get outside with them. 79% of parents support their kids’ physical activity financially (e.g., through fees, equipment), but only 37% of parents say they often played active games with their children in the past year. Kids of more active parents participate in more sport and unstructured play after school than kids of less active parents.