A Real Issue

Reasons for promoting healthy lifestyle habits in camps

These days, fewer children walk to school. Fatty and sugary foods are increasingly commonplace. And computer, TV, and game device screens are ubiquitous. With the environment we live in, it’s harder than ever to eat well and get enough exercise on a daily basis.

If we don’t turn this trend around, the life expectancy of our kids could be shorter than our own—this would be a first in the history of humanity! That’s why it is important to make it easier for children to adopt healthy lifestyle habits that will go a long way to making them fitter, healthier, more alert, and happier!

To achieve this goal, everyone has a role to play—government, cities, municipalities, schools, camps, and, of course, families. There’s no magic solution, but rather a whole host of little actions that can be taken on a daily basis and opportunities that can be used to discover the pleasure of being more active and eating better.

More and more specialists are predicting that today’s generation of children will be less healthy than their parents. Following is an overview of a troubling situation:

  • Over the past 25 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled1.

This is even more worrisome given that excess weight increases the risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.

  • Currently, nearly one out of every four children is overweight or obese2.

These children are at greater risk of having lower self-esteem and poorer quality of life as a result of prejudice and teasing.

  • Nearly half of all children do not consume the recommended daily minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables3.

Children who do not consume the recommended daily minimum miss out on the many benefits fruits and vegetables provide, notably their high vitamin and fiber content and their ability to protect against overweight.

  • Boys age 14 to 18 drink, on average, over half a liter of sweetened beverages a day4.

Sugary drinks like fruit cocktails, soft drinks, and energy drinks provide liquid calories, which don’t satisfy hunger. Consuming these beverages therefore increases the risk of obesity in children.

  • Only 7% of children are physically active for 60 minutes a day (the recommended minimum)5.

Sedentary behavior is a major risk factor for overweight and obesity. Moreover, sedentary children tend to grow into adults who have trouble being active enough.

  • In 1971, 80% of kids walked or rode their bikes to school. Today that number has fallen to only 24%6.

Active transportation rates are declining among children. Kids get around less and less on foot and by bike, a phenomenon that is contributing to their sedentariness.

  • Children spend an average of six hours a day in front of a screen (TV, computer, or video game)7.

That’s over 40 hours a week! Why should this be cause for concern? Because the more time they spend in front of a screen, the less time they spend being physically active and the more likely they are to eat foods with little nutritious value.

  • On a typical weeknight, only one out of every two families say they eat together with the entire family and without the TV on8.

Meals eaten alone in front of the TV or computer are often less nutritious. They also have a negative impact on food behaviors of young people in the long term.

  • Between 20% and 40% of young children have trouble sleeping and nearly 13% of teens suffer from insomnia9.

Lack of sleep has a negative impact on concentration, memory, academic success, and the development and growth of children.

1. Statistics Canada (2006). Childhood obesity: A troubling situation. Consulted at http://www41.statcan.gc.ca/2006/2966/ceb2966_004-eng.htm

2. Public Health Agency of Canada (2012). Curbing Childhood Obesity: An Overview of the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights. Consulted at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/framework-cadre/intro-eng.php

3. Institut de la statistique du Québec (2008). L’alimentation des jeunes québécois : un premier tour de table. Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes – Nutrition 2004. Gouvernement du Québec, 98 pages.

4. Garriguet, D. (2008). Beverage Consumption of Children and Teens. Statistics Canada, 7 pages.

5. Colley, R.C., D. Garriguet, I. Janssen, C.L. Craig, J. Clarke, and M.S. Tremblay (January 2011). Physical activity of Canadian children and youth: Accelorometer results from 2007 to 2009. Canadian Health Measures Survey. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

6. Lewis, P. et al. (2008). Le transport actif et le système scolaire à Montréal et à Trois-Rivières – Analyse du système d’acteurs concernés par le transport actif des élèves des écoles primaires au Québec. Montréal : Groupe de recherche Ville et mobilité.

7. Active Healthy Kids Canada. (2010) Healthy habits start earlier than you think. The Active Healthy Kids Canada report card on physical activity for children and youth 2010, Toronto, ON.

8. Tout le monde à table (2011).

9. Gruber, R. (March 5, 2012). Sleep and children: the impact of lack of sleep on daily life. Douglas Mental Health University Institute. Consulted at http://www.douglas.qc.ca/info/sommeil-et-enfant-repercussions-du-manque-de-sommeil-sur-la-vie-quotidienne?locale=en