5 sneaky reasons parents overestimate how active their kids are

According to the latest research, only 9% of kids in Canada get enough physical activity, yet two thirds of parents believe they do.

But why do so many parents overestimate the activity levels of their kids? It’s not because they don’t pay attention or don’t care. By now the benefits of getting enough activity are pretty well-known. Active kids do better in school, with greater abilities to focus and longer attention spans. Active kids sleep better, have stronger bones, get sick less often, and have more fun.

So it’s not surprising that parents would like to think that their kids are getting enough activity and reaping all of these benefits. Any parent would.

Yet there are some sneaky reasons that explain why it’s altogether too easy for parents to think their kids are getting enough exercise every week, while they’re actually consistently falling short.

1. They assume an hour of soccer practice equals an hour of activity

This is an extremely common error when it comes to adding up activity. While it would be nice to think that kids are running around the entire time, the fact is they don’t. There is time spent learning and receiving instruction, time on the sidelines and waiting for the ball to come their way.

There are a whole host of reasons why about 43% of youth sports practice is spent being inactive. And unfortunately this isn’t unique to soccer, but actually applies to many organized sports and activities, from dance class to baseball.

2. They overestimate how active they are at school

This relates to the first assumption. Just as an hour of soccer practice doesn’t translate into an hour of activity, neither does an hour of gym class or an hour of recess. From tying their shoes to picking teams, all the little things add up to a rather big chunk of time. It would be great if kids could be running around the entire time, but it’s just not the reality.

3. They think that all kids are active by nature

Many parents assume that kids are naturally active creatures. They’re young and full of energy, they run around all the time. How could they not be getting enough activity?

While kids are active by nature, we have a hard time letting kids be kids and they don’t get a lot of time to play in an unstructured way. Only 9% are active enough. Less than 1 in 10. Today’s world is full of screens and videogames, television and computers. Kids can no longer simply be left to their own devices, because those devices are now handheld and are altogether too good at keeping them sitting still.

4. They don’t realize they’re not active enough themselves

While the stats for adults are better, they’re not fantastic. According to the latest numbers only 20% of Canadian adults get enough activity each week.

All of this collective inactivity has shifted perceptions of what it means to be active. We’ve lowered the physical activity bar without really noticing. As a result, many people assume they’re more active than they really are and are accidentally setting a rather inactive example. If you can’t accurately judge your own activity levels, how can you judge your children’s?

Studies show that one of the biggest things parents can do to help increase their kids’ activity levels is to be more active themselves. But first, they have to realize that there is in fact a problem with the status quo.

5. They don’t objectively measure

The fifth and final reason for this constant overestimation is that parents don’t actually keep track and compare their children’s activity to the proposed guidelines. The best way to quit overestimating, is to stop estimating altogether and start calculating.

It’s clear that for a variety of reasons, we just aren’t as good as estimating as we think are. That’s why it’s a good idea to actually keep track. Write it down. Get a step counter, or other wearable device, for yourself and for your child. Put the numbers in a journal and tally them up.

Then go here and read the guidelines. Is your child meeting the requirements? Are you?

This is too important to leave it up to vague estimates and best guesses. Quit estimating and start calculating. Because when you do, you’ll realize why ParticipACTION is so adamant about sitting less and moving more.