Excessive screen-time shrinking Canadian kids' physical activity levels

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Toronto, May 28 : A majority of kids have been spending more time in front of televisions and computer screens rather than being physically active, according to a new study conducted on Canadian children.

The report suggests that almost all Canadian children are failing when it comes to being physically active and the trend is getting worse as kids spend six hours a day or more in front of some type of screen.

The study, 'Active Healthy Kids Canada,' gave an overall grade of D in its annual report, but in some subcategories, including physical activity and screen time, it awarded failing marks.

According to the report the grade for screen time fell from D-minus last year to F this year.

The report revealed that the average child in the 10-to-16 years age group typically spends six hours a day in front of some type of screen. The mark dropped because there's more evidence that Canadian kids are engaged in too much screen time, and new data indicate even preschoolers are getting high amounts of screen time, according to the report.

"This is displacing what would otherwise be active leisure time - it may not be (a) purposeful organized sport-type of thing, but it would be something other than sitting idle," Globeandmail.com quoted Mark Tremblay, the organization's chief scientific officer, as saying.

"When you're sitting idle, your metabolic rate is very low, and in fact when you're watching television it's barely above that related to sleeping.

"And so from an energy expenditure perspective, a muscle contraction perspective, this is not as good as even doing incidental movement," he added.

According to the survey, kids in Grades 6 to 10, spent seven hours and 25 minutes per day during weekends, while weekday time amounted to five hours and 56 minutes a day.

Nancy Gyurcsik, an associate professor in the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said young people and adults alike only have a certain amount of time for leisure activities.

"Partly what motivates us is what we value," she said from Saskatoon, commenting on the report card.

"What it says to me is that our youth are highly valuing screen time." The study conducted over 221 girls focussed on barriers to physical activity and no one mentioned screen time.

"We're labelling that as a barrier ... but the girls, the youths themselves, are not recognizing that as a barrier. Maybe we need to have our youth more highly value physical activity," said Gyurcsik.

In the survey only 34 per cent of parents reported actually using parks and outdoor spaces in their community, and just 23 per cent reported taking advantage of facilities and programs.

"The philosophy is that if you build it, they will come. And what the literature is showing is that if you build things, or if people have access to things, they're not necessarily coming," said Ms. Gyurcsik.

It could be that people are busy and don't schedule the time, she suggested.

"What we need to do is get at 'why aren't they using them? What is the limiting factor?' ... Once we know that, then we can start to design interventions to help those people out," she added.

ANI

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