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Canadian youths rank low in physical activity

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TORONTO—Canadian kids continue to rank low in a global report on physical activity.

The most recent release from the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance finds children in Slovenia and Japan to be the most active among 49 countries studied.

Canada scored a 'D+' in categories that measure overall physical activity and sedentary behaviour and a 'D' in the newest indicator, physical fitness.

The Canadian data was drawn from the ParticipAction Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, released in June.

That report gave Canadian kids a 'D+' for overall physical activity, up slightly from 'D-' in 2016.

The global report blamed Canada's dismal showing on too much screen time, the urbanization of communities, and increasing automation of domestic chores.

It said countries with the most active children and youth foster physical activity by “pervasive cultural and social norms.”

Slovenia integrates sport with national identity and regularly measures the physical fitness of children aged six to 19 years old.

It scored a top grade of 'A-' for overall physical activity, a 'B+' for family and peers, and an 'A' for government, which evaluates strategy and resources.

Japan, meanwhile, has a highly-established walking-to-school policy and earned an 'A-' for active transportation and an 'A' for physical fitness.

Alliance president and Ottawa physician Dr. Mark Tremblay said activity levels overall are too low, and deemed it “a global childhood inactivity epidemic.”

He acknowledged that data provided by participating countries is inconsistent, with many in the current study supplying incomplete information.

But he was encouraged by the addition of 15 countries to the study, including several in South America, although he said four countries from the previous study in 2016 dropped out of the survey.

Tremblay, also a researcher with the ParticipAction survey, said Canada can improve its ranking by encouraging kids to walk, bike, or wheel to school, and better managing screen time.

In the ParticipAction report, just 35 percent of kids aged five-17, and 62 percent of kids aged three-four, were found to get the exercise they need.

Fifty-one percent engage in more recreational screen time than is recommended.

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