Make play a priority this school year

Between attending classes and homework the school year is a busy time for kids. One thing that may fall off the priority list is how to keep kids active when there is limited free time.

As a parent or guardian, it’s important to keep kids active all year long. New numbers released by Statistics Canada show that only 39 per cent of 5- to 17-year-olds are achieving recommended physical activity levels, an increase compared to 35 per cent in 2018.

Despite the slight improvement, there’s a long way to go. According to PariticpACTION’s Report Card on Physical Activity for Children & Youth, there are many important connections between the health of the body and the brain that can help kids reach their potential both on and off the playing field.

Other benefits of physical activity, beyond success on the playground, include:

• Your kid will Create Better. Sitting at a desk all day can greatly diminish your child’s health, mood, and even creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. But, having kids participate in physical activity is proven to fire up the right side of their brains responsible for creativity, imagination and intuition. So, let your kids run around on that playground – you’ll be helping to boost their creativity in the classroom.
• Your kid will Sleep Better. Research indicates that kids are not tiring themselves out each day for a deep sleep – and in turn, not sleeping well enough to wake refreshed. Regular sleep deprivation can lead to difficult behaviours and health problems and kids who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, perform better in school and have better overall mental health. Encourage more physical activity throughout the day to ensure that your child’s brain gets the sleep it needs so they can solve problems and learn new information.
• Your kid will Happy Better. Happiness relies on chemical reactions in the body that all play a part in tipping the scale of our mood. With most kids spending up to 10 hours a day sedentary and indoors, they’re missing out on many potential benefits. Research shows that physically active people are more satisfied with their lives and that exercise itself is strongly linked to happiness. Also, outdoor activity has been proven to have an even more profound impact on kid’s moods. So have your kid join you on a walk, hike or jog to take full advantage.
• Your kid will Learn Better. Getting active can directly translate into increased focus and concentration in school. It prepares and encourages brain cells to bind together, which is the basis for learning new information at the cellular level. Encourage your kid to get their ‘sweat on’ daily to ensure they have more energy, better memory and enhanced concentration.
In order to help kids get through the back to school rush and Learn, Create, Sleep and Happy Better, ParticipACTION offers a few tips on how parents/guardians can help their children remain active during this busy time. Dr. Leigh Vanderloo, Exercise Scientist at ParticipACTION, is also available for interviews if you’d like more information or tips.

1. Add physical activity to daily tasks. Everyday activities can count as exercise too, so long as your kids are getting their heart rates up. Things like walking the dog, helping with chores around the house (like raking leaves), or walking/biking/wheeling to a friend’s house or school. Incorporating these activities into your kid’s daily routines will help them develop a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

2. Limit screen time. On average, kids are still sitting too much and moving too little. What’s the solution? Why not try mandating tech-free time? Ask children to step away from their gadgets for an hour a day and encourage them to use this time to be active. Even something like an hour of tag can make a difference.

3. Model good behaviour. Lace up those running shoes, pull out the yoga mat or hop on the bike. Children who see their parents/guardians being active are more likely to be active themselves. Incorporate movement into your family bonding time whenever possible.