Kids and Excercise

Canadian youngsters should spend no more than two hours daily in front of computer and TV screens, according to new behaviour guidelines.

Brothers, from left to right, Matthew, 11, C.J., 5, and Andrew Dalglish, 8, go sliding in a park near their Toronto home after school on Friday, February 11, 2011. (Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology unveiled the guidelines Tuesday in hopes of minimizing the time children and youth between ages five and 17 spend in low-energy behaviours.

On top of the expected recommendations — spend less time playing passive video games and watching TV — the guidelines say youth should try to scale back sedentary transport, such as taking the bus or travelling by car.

Kids, five to 11, are encouraged to walk to school with a group of friends in their neighbourhood. Older youth are asked to consider biking to school. Or instead of texting a friend, why not try getting up and visiting them in person.

But it’s a tough task, reducing “screen time.”

The average school-age Canadian spends about 62 per cent of their waking hours in screen time — that’s 8.6 hours a day.

The society released its physical activity guidelines for Canadians only a few weeks ago. Children and youth were advised to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. However, only about 7 per cent of youth meet those guidelines, the society says.

“We’re not saying replace sedentary behaviour with exercise per se — (although) that would be wonderful. But replace it with something else other than sedentary behaviour,” Mark Tremblay, chair of the physical activity guidelines committee told The Canadian Press.

“If that’s just standing more often, then wonderful. If it’s walking more often, if it’s getting outside, if it’s doing chores around the house, if it’s doing a hobby that doesn’t have you sitting immobile, then what our research shows is that that is associated with a decrease in health risks over and above the benefits that kids get from high-level physical activity.”

With computers built into the curriculum, some schools are looking at new ways to get their students moving.

At Earl Grey School in Winnipeg, they are trying out after-school dance classes.

“They’re participating and being fit, but they’re not aware of it and that works really well,” principal Gail Singer told CTV News.

In New Brunswick, the province’s largest school district is incorporating physical activities into more student routines.

School District 2 recently announced the launch of Move 2 Improve at Beaverbrook School in Moncton and its investment in exercise equipment, such as treadmills and spin bikes.

With a report by CTV’s Jill Macyshon in Winnipeg