McMaster prof says low grade in kids health report card requires lifestyle changes

Sedentary behaviour, little or no physical activity, gets the lowest grade on the report

Sedentary behaviour, little or no physical activity, gets the lowest grade on the report

The 2013 report card released by Active Healthy Kids shows Canada gets low grades across the board in physical activity.

Active Healthy Kids is an organization that promotes an active lifestyle in children, and a source for knowledge, insight, and understanding for stakeholders to help build better programs to increase physical activity in children.

Active Healthy Kids releases a report card every year, giving Canada grades for categories including organized sport organization (Canada gets a C), physical activity levels (D), family physical activity (C) as well as non-government strategies and investments (B). The highest grade for Canada on the report card is in the availability of programs, parks, and playgrounds, which was an A-. The lowest national grade was an F for sedentary behaviour.

Active Transportation

Brian Timmons is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at McMaster University. He is a scientist with the McMaster Child Health Research Institute, and runs the Child Health and Exercise Medicine Program at McMaster. Timmons was an investigator on the report card, and worked to give recommendations.

"This years focus is on active transportation, and that's the message we really want to hit home and for people to start thinking about," says Timmons. "Not just parents, but schools and municipalities. The reason why it's a good topic is because it hits multiple levels of society."

The active transportation category scored a D, with 24% of kids under the age of 17 using a mode of transportation that requires activity, such as walking, biking, or skating, to get to school or extra curricular activities.

"It can be as simple as letting your kids walk to school, or creating a team of parents who share responsibility in walking the kids to school. If you do have to drive to school, it could be parking farther away from the school," says Timmons.

Aside from the immediate changes parents can make, Timmons says the issue is more complex than that and the schools should get involved to also help make a change.

"Schools can create environments like bike racks, and they can address safety issues, crosswalks and these kinds of things"

Children with disabilities and active lifestyles

New to the report card this year, are suggestions for physical activity promotion for children with disabilities.

Dr. Jan Willem Gorter is also an associate professor at McMaster University, and is the Director of the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research. The recommendations in the Active Healthy Kids Report Card for children with disabilities were made the CanChild's Stay-FIT Study.

"Children as a whole with a disability have lower levels of physical activity," says Gorter. "It's very much related to their ability level, how they get around. Youth that need a wheelchair, for example, to get around have less opportunity to be physically active, and have less choice."

Gorter says community programs that are currently in place need to work together with community partners to make programs that are not only accessible for children with disabilities, but also interest them enough to want to join.

"Our thinking is to work with the community programs that are already there, and to optimize the use of them," says Gorter.

Community Programs

There are community programs that are currently available, such as the Equestrian Association for the Disabled horseback riding in Mount Hope and YMCA programs such as Helping Hands and Reach for the Rainbow.

More options could become available, as "basically any program and any sport club could think of developing something for children with disabilities," says Gorter.

More information on T.E.A.D. and YMCA programs can be found here: