Toronto does a poor job of getting kids active, so (surprise, surprise) Toronto kids aren’t active
A new report from Get Active Toronto (guess what they’re all about) says that 93 per cent of local youth don’t get the minimum amount of exercise they need on a daily basis. The reasons behind the lack of young folks’ physical activity aren’t that difficult to understand [PDF], but what’s surprising is that they’re a problem in a city like Toronto. We take a look at three such surprises after the jump.
The most diverse city in Canada ought to do better, but apparently, children of new Canadians are roughly one third less likely to get their daily exercise than children of Canada-born Canadians. Which, really, is all a very polite way of saying that extracurricular sports are still—according to StatsCan data—Stuff White People Like.
Boys are still much, much more likely to participate in sports than girls, and the fact that currently only 10 per cent of Toronto’s sports programs are co-ed can’t be helping. The equation is slightly more complicated than it seems, because in certain cultures girls don’t actually want co-ed sports—they want all-girls teams. Whether the TDSB can square that circle is a fair question, but it’s hard to imagine that the share of co-ed sports couldn’t be doubled without running into major problems.
Apparently, nothing can escape the city’s inability to create sensible ways for people to get around. According to the report, kids who live one or two kilometres away from their school largely don’t walk anymore. It’s no surprise that the most walkable part of the city (the downtown core) correlates with best fitness results, while the most distant suburbs (i.e. Ford Nation) correlate with the worst.
Our take-away from the report is that, basically, if Toronto doesn’t do a better job of getting kids active (say, with co-ed teams, outreach to new Canadians and thinking more about walkable and bikeable neighbourhoods) then—shocker!—kids won’t be active on their own. And nobody blame the kids. It was hard enough to get them to play sports after the invention of the Nintendo; now they have iPads. It’s amazing they’re not adorable spheres already.
• 2011 Report on Physical Activity (PDF) [Get Active Toronto]
4 thoughts on “Toronto does a poor job of getting kids active, so (surprise, surprise) Toronto kids aren’t active”
We are raising two children in the downtown core and live very close to one of the “better” community centres. The city programs are truly awful with little or no instruction and have very limited spaces available. The paid/private programs are so expensive that we can barely afford them on two average incomes. Luckily, our children walk to and from school every day so that gets them outside more than the average child. I shutter to think what’s available to lower income families that live slightly further from schools and recreation centres.
I don’t think the fact that kids may not know ‘how to play’ can be overlooked. When faced with a grassy space and free time, way too many kids sit down and wait for instructions, or ask for a specific game to be played, or request their video game so they can sit on the ground and play that. Parents and schools need to remember that childrens’ instinct to run and dance and move and pretend shouldn’t be squashed in the name of discipline – it creates creative and physical laziness, and turns into a habit where activity is only done when they’re told they must.
Why would our kids be active?
We reduce / eliminate phys ed in our schools
We are afraid to let them play outside by themselves
We ban road hockey on quiet city streets
We drive them everywhere
We replace physical playtime with technological playtime by giving them computers & video games
We make them obese by feeding them processed junk food
It’s surprising that any of them are active
Wait & see what this does to our health care system
When I was a child in Toronto, Ontario Place provided lots of physical activity with climbing and jumping. And when my mom took me to the CNE, we walked home. I guess my mom rocks. And growing up poor, in a single parent family is not so bad, after all. Cheers!
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