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2022 Children & Youth Report Card

2021 Adult Report Card

What is the Children and Youth Report Card?

The ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth is the most comprehensive summary and assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada. It provides a comprehensive assessment of indicators using the academic letter grade approach. For over 15 years the Report Card has provided essential guidance and information for Canada and even globally, as it is now replicated around the world.

This year’s Report Card highlights how we’re only beginning to understand how COVID-19 impacted the movement behaviours of children and youth in Canada. What opportunities to get active were lost and found during the pandemic, and where do we go from here?

How has the pandemic impacted kids’ physical activity levels?

 

Report card key findings infographic

LOST

  • As the pandemic gripped the country, virtually all options for structured movement and play stopped suddenly.
  • When active play with friends, in-person physical education classes and sport competitions came to a halt, many families understood the need to protect public health but still felt that kids lost many essential opportunities to get active.
  • The pivot to virtual learning transformed kids’ screens from an indulgence into a necessity for education and socializing, creating even greater concerns for the many ways that screen time depletes our kids’ well-being.
Blue cartoon cloud
Cartoon sun

FOUND

  • However, many families and community leaders also sought and found ways to get kids active throughout the pandemic.
  • Community leaders and grassroots organizations sprang into action, expanding options to get active and engage with one another safely.
  • Many parents and caregivers took kids to the outdoors to reap the mental health benefits of time in nature. Trail maps and provincial park reservations became hot ticket items.
older woman gardening - light physical activity

Overall Physical Activity

Grade: D

How do we measure this grade?

The percentage of children and youth who get 60 minutes of average daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), which is the physical activity recommendation within the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.

Only 28% of kids in Canada (5-17 years) are meeting national physical activity guidelines

  • This is a drop of 11% from the previous Report Card.
  • Indigenous and newcomer youth had even larger decreases, going from 67% and 56% pre-pandemic, respectively, to 38% and 35% during the pandemic.
  • This is a decrease from the last Report Card (D+).

Recommendations

  • Continue to promote physical activity early and often while identifying many ways to incorporate purposeful and incidental daily physical activity.
  • Increase health promotion efforts to address the COVID-19-related decline in physical activity, especially in equity-deserving groups that have been disproportionately impacted.
  • Funding from various levels of government should continue to be committed for the surveillance of physical activity in children and youth by province/territory.

Sedentary Behaviours

Grade: F

How do we measure this grade?

The percentage of children and youth who meet the screen time recommendation within the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth of no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day on average.

man viewing phone laying on couch- sedentary

16.5% of children met the screen time guideline of 2 hours/day at the start of the pandemic

  • 3% of youth met the screen time recommendation at the start of the pandemic.
  • This is a decrease from the last Report Card (D+).

Recommendations

  • Set daily screen limits for children and avoid creating passive screen use opportunities, instead using screens to connect with others.
  • Encourage educators to apply recent International School-Related Sedentary Behaviour Recommendations. These suggest limiting classroom screen use and including frequent breaks in sedentary behaviour throughout the school day.
  • Health promotion efforts are needed to support families in reversing increases in screen time due to pandemic-related restrictions.
older man on a speed bike - active transportion

Active Transportation

Grade: C-

How do we measure this grade?

The percentage of children and youth who typically use active transportation to get to and from places (e.g., school, park, mall, friend’s house).

46% of parents indicate that their children either solely commute actively to school or commute partially in an active way

  • Several cities across Canada expanded street space available for active transportation and physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, these expansions tended to occur in areas with fewer children.
  • This is an improvement from the last Report Card (D-).

Recommendations

  • Consider letting kids walk, wheel or cycle to destinations within a few kilometres of home.
  • Schools should develop a school travel plan encouraging children to use active modes of transportation in order to reduce traffic, motor vehicle accidents and air pollution exposure.
  • National-level surveillance is needed on how often children and youth engage in active travel to and from destinations other than school, and what those destinations are.

Active Play

Grade: D-

How do we measure this grade?

The percentage of children and youth who engage in active play and non-organized/unstructured leisure activities for several hours a day.

man viewing phone laying on couch- sedentary

25% of children and youth achieved more than 840 mins/week (>2 hours/day on average) of total time engaged in indoor and outdoor unstructured play

  • At the height of the pandemic, children’s and youth’s time spent outdoors and engaged in outdoor play increased compared to the start of the pandemic but was still below pre-pandemic levels.
  • This is an increase from the last Report Card (F).

Recommendations

  • Promote and support outdoor — and, when possible, nature-based — play opportunities since they are linked to increased physical activity levels and improved mental health outcomes.
  • Encourage frequent active play opportunities. Given that children learn through play, this will not only support children’s development, but will also keep them healthy.
  • Use the international consensus definitions on outdoor play, learning and teaching recently released by the Play, Learn and Teach Outdoors Network (PLaTO-Net) to define outdoor play.

Tools & resources

Report card

Recommendations for governments

Key findings

Press release

Communications toolkit

Recommendations for schools & educators

Recommendations for parents & caregivers

Strategic & content partner