Health experts as well as advocates are of the view that innumerable children in Canada, counting kids below five years old, are squandering endless time watching television, playing video games or are glued to their computer screen. They are so addicted to these gadgets that their parents, caretakers and others concerned will be required to make tremendous endeavours to make them quit their habit and be more mobile. The health experts and campaigners expressed their concern over this issue in the wake of a report released on Tuesday saying that majority of the children in Canada do not fulfill the suggested instructions regarding their physical activity.
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It may be noted that Active Healthy Kids Canada has allocated an 'F' grade for the standard of physical activity among the children in Canada in its sixth annual progress report on the physical activity for children as well as youth. In fact, this is the fourth successive year that the grade card regarding the physical activity of Canadian children and youth has been so dismal.
In fact, the annual report released by Active Healthy Kids Canada has disclosed that less than 50 per cent of the kids who are in the pre-school stage engage themselves in routine physical activities and a mere 12 per cent of the children and youth in Canada are actually getting the recommended 90 minutes of regular physical exercise. On the other hand, the report observed that most of the young people in Canada are spending significant time on the television, videogame and computer screens. Precisely speaking, on an average the Canadian children and youth are spending as many as six hours every day watching television, playing videogames or being glued to their computer screen on weekdays and the time extends to over seven hours on weekends.
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Even as the international perceptions regarding the recommended time for daily physical activities differ, the report released by Active Healthy Kids Canada stated that it is unanimously agreed that children in the age group of one and five years ought to engage themselves in physical activity for a minimum of two hours every day. Nevertheless, the report disclosed that the children in the pre-school category are not only ignoring the need for the minimum daily physical activity, but also spending considerable time before their computers, television and videogame screens.
While it is recommended that children below the age of two years should not have any screen time, in reality over 90 per cent of tots start watching television even before they are two years old. Statistics available from a survey conducted across Canada noted that 27 per cent of kids in the age group of two and three years and 22 per cent of children in the age group of four and five years have been watching television for over two hours every day!
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According to Steve Manske, a professor of health studies and gerontology (study of aging and problems related to it) at the University of Waterloo, one of the major factors for children being more inactive is the absence of adequate space for undertaking physical activity and worries regarding the safety of children in such situations. He is of the view that it is possible to overcome much of the problem if adequate space is provided to children for carrying out their recommended daily physical activities.
Steve Manske suggested that by sharing their time with children parents would be able to slot in physical activity among them. For instance, instead of being glued to a television show, parents may spend some time with their children walking together in an open space.
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The University of Waterloo professor, who is also a senior scientist at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, said that when one spends time with their child engaging them in some kind of physical activity, the parents too are integrating activity in their life. Describing this as a very effective sort of modeling, Steve Manske said that although everyone is aware that such a thing could not be achieved overnight, we are aware that each little effort at the personal level may possibly augment the wellbeing of the population in general. Substantiating his view, the scientist said that while we make ourselves healthy and robust, we will have more ability to perform more and it will give us a nice feeling to be active than leading an inactive or sedentary life.
Incidentally, it is unfortunate that more and more inactive behaviours among kids are substituting what would have been known as playtime for children in the past resulting in as well as adding to an increased number of children who are overweight and/ or obese. According to the chief scientific officer of Active Healthy Kids Canada, Mark Tremblay, overweight and obesity among children are also related to an assortment of psychosocial (involving features of social and psychological actions) as well as health problems.
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According to Mark Tremblay, this is an extremely distressing tendency since it puts the children on a course that is not desired by anyone. He further said that consequently kids who are either overweight, fat or inactive have an inclination to pursue these behaviour patterns during the later period of their childhood and often even when they have grown up. Such kids certainly are more inactive in their later life compared to children who do not show such behaviour patterns in their early life, Mark Tremblay added.
Statistics available from a nationwide survey hints that 15.2 per cent kids in the age group of two and five years are overweight, while 6.3 per cent among them are fat. Thus, president and CEO of ParticipAction Kelly Murumets is of the opinion that parents are required to undertake leadership functions in encouraging physical activity among their children. Offering instances, she says that parents may help their children engage in physical activities by making the children walk to their school, cycling to the stores or parking the vehicles at the furthermost possible space in the parking lots.
Stating that among other things, ParticipAction's campaign during the fall would especially concentrate on the physical activities of children and youth, Kelly Murumets pointed out that children belonging to families having habitual healthy habits are more prone to adopt the healthy routines all through their upbringing and even when they grow up. According to her, a concerted endeavour by the public, private as well as non-profit segments of the society would be necessary to fight and overcome the problems of childhood indolence.
She was of the view that until and unless all the three sectors - public, private and non-profit, admit at the outset that we are facing a catastrophe in the country and also agree that it needs instantaneous and pressing actions right now and initiate a concerted action, the crisis will continue to exist and augment. The report card on the physical activity released by Active Healthy Kids Canada last Tuesday should be considered as a distress signal by everyone throughout Canada and every Canadian has to realize that they face a crisis and there is an urgency to become active in order to fight and overcome it.
Meanwhile, a professor in the staff of medicine at the University of British Columbia who is also a director in the Centre of Hip Health and Mobility at the Vancouver Costal Health, McKay said the if the children spend some time everyday with their family at home, some time in a preparatory school and some time with their caretaker, the responsibility lies with every one of these persons to teach healthy and active habits in the child during the period he or she spends with the particular child.
According to McKay, she deems that the solution to the problem lies in considering the entire gamut of activities that a child ought to be performing all through the day instead of looking at a particular aspect like participating in pre-arranged games and other activities, such as going for walks, cycling or swimming. She said that there will be a remarkable change in the aptitude and health of the children if it is possible to arrange a combination of all the above mentioned activities for an hour in a child's daily routine. If this can be achieved, it would definitely be possible to get the sedentary children moving more.