Canada's Condominium Magazine

#1 Health risk to children — only 7% of 5-11 year-olds get enough exercise; walking the kids to school instead of driving helps children meet physical activity goals

According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Canadian children rank only 19th in the world for fitness. According to Dr. Lang of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (Ottawa) — a lead author in the study:

“We know that aerobic fitness in kids is related to health. Kids with better aerobic fitness tend to be generally more healthy. And we also know that kids who are more healthy in late adolescence tend to also be healthy adults.” [1]


Various groups — including schools, the city of Toronto and various fitness advocacy groups — are encouraging families to walk their kids to school.


A survey from the University of Michigan on Children’s Health found that “Lack of exercise is number one in a top ten list of health concerns facing kids…” On the top ten list of risks to children (an annual survey of parents), lack of exercise tops: obesity, bullying, stress, internet safety and child abuse and neglect.

For younger kids, or if you are concerned about your neighbourhood, take the time to walk them to school.

Only 7% of 5-11 year-olds get enough physical activity to stay healthy, according to the City of Toronto.[2] In Canada, this number is 9% who get the “recommended “60 minutes of daily physical acvity.” A Metrolix study from 2016 revealed a 25% drop in youth 11-17 walking or biking to school. In Canada, only 25% of 5-17 year olds walk or bike to school.[4]


Walk the kids to school: safer and healthier than driving

The City of Toronto advises parents to do one simple thing: Walk the kids to school. If that’s not within range, walk to the bus. To be avoided is the daily ritual of “driving the kids to school.” The city advises:

“Active transportation to school – walking or cycling to get to and from school– has long been known to be an important source of physical activity for children. However, many of today’s parents drive their children to school because they think that it is safe and convenient. Car traffic is linked to more traffic collisions, more greenhouse gas emissions and an overall decrease in children’s levels of physical activity.”


Encouraging kids to walk to school is an important way to help improve child fitness. To stay safe, safety-audit your routes, walk the younger ones yourself or encourage older kids to walk to school in friend groups.


Currently, less than 1/3 of Canadian children walk or cycle to school, in part because parents believe it is “safer” to drive them. In addition to the health risk from inactivity, the City of Toronto says, in its argument against driving the kids to school: “Children and youth are more at risk for the health effects of poor air quality due to car emissions than adults.”

Walking the kids to school, or at least to the next bus top can, according to the city:

  • Help children meet daily physical activity guidelines (try to walk at least a 2 kilometres each day minimum)
  • Allow you and your children to spend more time together
  • Provide you with an opportunity to teach your children about safety skills
  • Save you money
  • Improve your mood
  • Make our streets safer and cleaner.


Lineups of cars waiting to drop their kids are not only stressful (unhealthy) for the parents, it robs the children of necessarily physical activity needed for health. It also creates safety issues for children and pollution issues around schools.


Many groups are advocating for parents to encourage their kids to walk to school. One, with practical help, is “Active & Safe Routes to School” — a website dedicated to the healthy mission of active kids.

Children in a condo fitter? Maybe.

Children growing up in a condo may actually get more exercise than children in the house.

Condo’s tend to be within walking distance of schools. Condo’s tighter family spaces actually encourage kids to make the effort to walk to the park or go to the pool. Children in a condo are also more likely to walk to school, averaging a kilometre, or 2,238 steps. For those parents who still drive their kids to school or the bus stop, it’s time to consider walking them instead.


Starting them walking at a young age can become a healthy habit as they age. It also sets the foundation for healthy adulthood in future.


The risk to children who are inactive, according to Medline includes the future potential for:

  • Obesity
  • Heart diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Small steps to fitness: Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology

The Canadian Society of Excercise Physiology recommends, for children[3]:

“Choosing activities—both real and imagined—teaches kids about the balance of sweating, stepping, sleeping and sitting they need each day to be healthy:

  • Sweat – 60 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity
  • Step – several hours of light physical activity
  • Sleep – 9-11 hours of sleep per night for children aged 5-13 years, and 8-10 hours for those aged 14-17 years
  • Sit – no more than two hours of recreational screen time and limited sitting for extended periods.”


A leading cause of sleep deprivation in children is “screen time” in the bedroom. It also tends to rob them of needed activity time. Use of mobiles, tablets, computers and TVs are a factor in the “sleepidemic” among children.


Research strongly shows the need for a new movement paradigm that emphasizes the integration of all movement behaviours occurring over a whole day, shifting the focus from the individual components to emphasize the whole (all physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep).

“Given the current inactivity and obesity epidemics, a new approach that can have a greater impact over current approaches is desperately needed,” says CSEP board chair, Dr. Philip Chilibeck. “It is time that we adopt a broader, more integrated, and inclusive strategy to better address current public health crises. CSEP is providing parents, caregivers, teachers and health professionals with new guidance for the whole 24-hour period to help Canadian children and youth to grow up healthy.”

The new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth encourage children and youth to “Sweat, Step, Sleep and Sit” – a healthy 24 hours includes: 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities; uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep for those aged 5-13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14-17 years; and no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time.


For safety, train the children to obey safety traffic crossing guards.


The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines were developed by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Group (HALO) of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), ParticipACTION, The Conference Board of Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and a group of leading researchers from around the world, with the input of over 700 national and international stakeholders.

“Ninety-four percent of stakeholders agree with the new 24-hour approach to guidelines,” noted Dr. Mark Tremblay, Guidelines Development committee chair, “this research is important because it challenges the current fragmented conceptualization of the various movement behaviours as separate units, whereas research shows that the whole day matters.”


[1] “Why did Canadian kids place only 195h of 50 countries in this fitness test” Globe and Mail

[2] “Walking to School” City of Toronto

[3]Canadian Society of Excercise Physiology “24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.”

[4] Active and Safe Routes to School “An Urgent Problem”

Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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