School-aged residents in Simcoe-Muskoka not getting enough physical activity to be healthy, health unit says

With the new school year fast approaching, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is encouraging families to help their children and teens build physical activity into their back-to-school routines and keep it going all year long.

Children and youth in Simcoe-Muskoka are not getting enough physical activity to be healthy, the health unit says in a news release. 

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that children and youth aged five to 17 get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, wheeling and playing sports, the health unit says.

However, results from the 2022 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth shows that only 28 per cent of kids are meeting that target, the health unit points out.

“Physical activity and overall health are closely linked. While higher physical activity levels among children and youth support their physical fitness and development, it also improves their mental, emotional and social well-being,” the health unit states. 

“Children and youth who are physically active experience greater self-esteem, reduced levels of anxiety and depression, and are better able to learn when in school, all of which help to enhance their quality of life.” 

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit offered the following suggestions to help local families start off the new school year:

Find opportunities for active school travel – Encouraging kids to walk or wheel to the places they need to go becomes a healthy habit that can last a lifetime. Making time to walk or wheel to and from school is one of the easiest ways for school-aged children to get regular daily physical activity. You can prepare your child for their journey by practicing the route they will take before the first day of school. Visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s website for more information about active school travel.

Encourage more time in nature – Make plans for outdoor play as part of the after-school routine. Time spent playing in nature supports kids being active for longer periods of time and gets them moving in different ways with opportunities for climbing hills, balancing on logs, and building forts. It also helps kids feel good about themselves, as connecting with nature is good for everyone’s mental health and well-being. Learn more about staying active after the school day ends.

Break up time spent sitting – Sitting less and moving more is important for everyone, including children and youth who should spend less than two hours a day using or watching screens, such as TVs, tablets or computers when it’s not for school work. Set limits around screen time and offer alternative activities that will encourage movement.

Be active as a family – Get the whole family involved by choosing sports and activities where everyone can participate after school and on weekends. This encourages movement, social connectedness and attachment, which are all important for good mental health. In addition, children who have parents and caregivers who enjoy being physically active, are more likely to be physically active themselves. Learn more about active play and how everyone can benefit from being active as a family.

To learn more about physical activity and active school travel, visit smdhu.org/OnTheMove or call Health Connection on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.

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