Active Kids: How Canadian Parents Can Help Fight the Obesity Epidemic

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: May 6, 2010

Despite the reminders that media and health organizations alike constantly release, obesity is still considered an epidemic throughout a variety of countries the world over.

From Germany to the U.S., the obesity epidemic has not lessened and Canada is no exception. Unfortunately, this epidemic doesn’t just affect adults. Only 12% of Canada’s children between the ages of five and 19 are active enough to meet Canada’s physical activity guidelines, which say that 90 minutes each day of exercise or play is essential for children to stay healthy.

Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of ParticipACTION, the Canadian organization that promotes physical activity and sport participation throughout Canada, explains that healthy habits need to begin early in life.

“Lifestyle habits set in the early years predict obesity and health outcomes later in childhood and even into adulthood,” says Murumets. “We do not currently have physical activity guidelines for children five and under in Canada, yet the consensus is that all kids aged one to five should be getting two hours of physical activity per day, spread out over many sessions and as part of play, games, active transportation and recreation.“

So what’s stopping Canada’s children from playing and staying active? Murumets says today’s biggest culprit in preventing kids from getting enough physical activity is “screen time” – that is, too much time in front of computers and televisions. However, Murumets stresses that no one person in a children’s life is to blame for what ParticipACTION brands as the ‘physical inactivity crisis’.

“As a society, we have engineered many natural opportunities to [take physical activity] out of our lives,” says Murumets. “We drive cars instead of walking or cycling, we use snow throwers instead of shovels and we work in front of computers instead of in more physical roles. We all know we should be getting active, but our busy lives seem to get in the way.”

Despite the apparent difficulty parents face in incorporating physical activity into their family’s lives due to the daily routine of work and school, ParticipACTION has been conducting research since it was founded in 1971 to develop helpful tips that everyone can easily adapt to get active.

While Murumets concedes that “solving the inactivity crisis will require commitment at every level of society…[it] doesn’t mean you can’t do something today to help overcome it. “

Murumets therefore encourages parents to go for a walk after dinner with their kids, kick a ball around the yard, or take a trip to a local park so children can run around with friends and play games. While not only ensuring that their children “get moving,” a parent’s support in getting their kids active results in a number of positive effects.

“Active play is fun, but it’s certainly not frivolous,” says Murumets. “It’s critical for the healthy development of children, as it gets them moving, and helps build social skills, imaginations and self-esteem.“

For more information on getting your kids active, visit ParticipACTION website at and go to Getting Active.

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