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Ottawa promoting proper diet, activity to nation’s youth

Andrew Mitchell

Not that anecdotal evidence counts for much, but when I was a kid, you had to travel to five different schoolyards before you could find an open basketball hoop or baseball diamond.

Now when I go home to visit, the schoolyards are empty. Maybe a few adults will be out there playing some two and two, but you can tell that the same question is on their minds – where are all the kids?

According to the Canadian government, they’re at home watching television, surfing the Web and playing video games. They’re eating junk food, and they’re gradually getting heavier.

While the government has known for some time that kids were getting heavier, it wasn’t until April that they decided to start a nationwide campaign to reverse this trend.

On April 5, Minister of Health Anne McLellan launched Canada’s first-ever-Physical Activity Guides for Children and Youth.

"We all have a role to play in encouraging children and youth to lead healthier, more active lives," said Minister McLellan.

"The goal of the Guides is to provide parents, educators, physicians and community leaders with the information they need to help increase physical activity levels in children and youth, and lay the groundwork for healthy growth and development."

The research on the topic is staggering.

According to a recent poll, Canadian children aren’t even active enough to promote optimal growth and development. Between 1981 and 1996 the number of overweight children doubled, and instances of obesity tripled for boys and girls.

The Guides were developed in a partnership between the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and are supported by the Canadian Paediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians in Canada.

Among the basic recommendations within the guide, Health Canada is recommending inactive children and youth increase the amount of time they currently spend being physically active by at least 30 minutes per day.

The Guides will be available on the Health Canada Web site starting in May at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/paguide/youth.html .

There are Guides for both children and youth.

The children’s guide includes a five-month program for increasing moderate and vigorous physical activity, while gradually decreasing the amount of non-active time a child gets. It stresses the benefits of regular physical activity, including better overall health and fitness, healthy growth, good posture and balance, better flexibility, longer endurance, more relaxation time – a plus for every parent – and greater strength and self-esteem.

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