Movement levels plunged for children and youth during restrictions
Just five per cent of Canadian children met basic physical activity guidelines early on in the pandemic, which is why school phys-ed programs are now looking for alternatives to get students to work up a sweat in a safe fashion. As a result of physical distancing measures and increased remote learning, children have had more sedentary time during the pandemic, and that has had implications for schools planning physical education. The Toronto District School Board, for instance, has asked gym teachers to cancel fall fitness training after phys-ed instructors reported that students' physical activity levels have been alarming so far. "They've noticed that kids are out of breath immediately, so the lack of physical activity that's taken place over the last seven months is showing," said George Kourtis, who heads the TDSB's phys-ed program.Even so, educators say it's imperative that kids get a workout of some sort. But that comes with challenges in a remote learning environment.Jennifer Bell, a Grade 11 phys-ed teacher with TDSB's virtual school, recently demonstrated lunges to a class by doing the movements toward her laptop screen. But the students had their cameras turned off, which makes the learning more difficult. "How do we teach sports skills while you're standing in your living room?" Bell said. "You don't necessarily have another opponent or a partner to play a sport with. That's where we're trying to get creative."
Physically distanced footballGetting creative includes activities like juggling to practise movement skills and having students regularly type in their 15-second heart rate measurements to show that their heart rate is increasing from the participation, Bell said. "You had to stay six feet apart," both horizontally and vertically, Maryam said. "You can't really communicate with other people. It becomes harder to play in the game." Maryam said she enjoys being physically active. When the phys-ed class ends next month, she plans to continue to get a workout by playing basketball or soccer with friends.
Importance of movementNational health guidelines recommend that children and youth (aged 5-17 years) have high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour and sufficient sleep each day, including:
- An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity(such as walking quickly enough to still be able to talk but not sing).
- Nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for those aged five to 13 and eight to 10 hours per night for those aged 14 to 17, with consistent bed and wake-up times.
- No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.
- Parental encouragement and support.
- Parents playing actively with their children.
- Dog ownership.
With files from CBC's Vik Adhopia and Melanie Glanz