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Kids urged to get active at school

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Canada’s most influential sport, wellness and health organizations have offered unprecedented support to Canada’s provincial and territorial governments in order to inject an hour of daily physical activity into Canada’s schools. The group of more than 60 private sector and not-for-profit organizations offered to share responsibility to get Canada’s kids active at school — representing a historical and unrivaled movement to solve the overwhelming problem of inactive youth in Canada.

The “Active At School” initiative announced recently represents a multi-year movement by the organizations involved to work with governments and offer access to their considerable networks, resources, investments and marketing efforts to reverse the staggering trend of inactivity amongst millions of Canadian children and youth.

The group initiated meetings with governments over the past two months and will seek meetings with premiers, education and health ministers from all governments in the next 90 days to detail the breadth of what the group is offering to make an hour a day of activity in schools a reality.

The Problem

Canada’s children and youth are more inactive today than at any time in our country’s history — a fact articulated by numerous studies and clearly recognized by Canada’s concerned parents. A survey of more than 5,000 households has shown that 88 per cent of Canadian families know that being active is the right thing to do but have difficulty doing it, citing a lack of time, safety and financial resources as barriers to greater activity. The same study showed that more than 85 per cent of Canadians agree that schools should have daily physical activity for all students.

Increasing levels of physical activity among young people has been shown in study after study to:

• improve health outcomes

• increase confidence and self-esteem

• provide life lessons, help with goal setting and build teamwork; and

• improve concentration and academic performance.

Schools represent a safe and structured environment where all students, regardless of background or means, have the opportunity to succeed. Canada’s school system, however, is facing extraordinary pressures and competing priorities.

Quotes from Leading Members of the Group and Supportive Voices

“We must help our children be more active at school but we must also help our schools and teachers who are doing great work with the resources they have,” said Stephen Wetmore, chief executive officer of Canadian Tire Corporation. “We rely on our schools and teachers to do so much. Those companies and organizations that have the resources and tools to help our school system get our kids more active need to step forward and make a difference.”

“We’re going to reach out to sit down with every premier and minister of education in the next 90 days to identify ways we can inject more activity into schools,” continued Wetmore. “We will learn about the barriers that are unique to each region — and we’re going to offer the resources of this incredibly powerful group to help overcome those barriers.”

“I always find it strange that we are looking for that secret sauce that makes our kids smarter, happier and gives them better self-esteem. Well, we’ve got it — it’s called exercise,” said Dr. Mike Evans, staff physician at St. Michael’s Hospital. “It is great when kids are active outside of school, and many are, but just like adults, if we want to change behaviour, we need to think about their daily habits and make it as easy as possible for new habits to be formed.”

“We’ve been focused on getting our young people access to daily physical education for over 80 years,” stated Chris Jones, executive director and CEO of Physical & Health Education Canada. “We are excited to be a part of Active At School — working with partners to help raise awareness on the need for quality daily physical education programming for all kids across Canada.”

“The passion for hockey, and the joy of playing it, has been passed through generations of Canadian youngsters,” said Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League. “To help build the next generation of hockey players, we need to ensure that Canadian students get ‘Active At School’ and receive the amount of physical activity they require. We are proud to be part of this outstanding initiative.”

“We’ve made major strides in helping children enjoy healthier lifestyles, but we still have a long way to go to ensure that all kids are physically active,” said Pierre Lavoie, co-founder of the Le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie. “Bringing together private, public and not-for-profit partners is part of the solution and we are excited that Active At School is helping to focus attention on such a critical issue for our youth.”

More than 60 partners have rallied together to support an hour a day of activity at school. Inevitably more partners will join the movement in the coming months.

By working together, Active At School will raise awareness of the issue and the solution, as well as work with governments, school boards and industry partners to determine how best to achieve one hour a day of quality physical activity. Active At School partners expect to be making additional announcements in the days, weeks and months to come related to campaign successes and progress.

Visit activeatschool.ca or actifsalecole.ca.

Join them on Facebook at Facebook.com/activeatschool.

Follow the conversation on Twitter, #activeatschool.

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