Vancouver has a reputation as an active city. Surrounded by nature as we are, there is no shortage of options when it comes to getting outside and getting moving. But that doesn’t necessarily mean our kids are getting as much activity as they should. Active Healthy Kids Canada recently released their 2013 AReport Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. They say that only five percent of Canadian kids aged five to seventeen are meeting the guidelines for the recommended amount of daily physical activity, and there has been no improvement observed in the past year. So what do we do? They suggest leaving the car at home, and opting for active transportation.
Active transportation, like walking, cycling, wheeling, rollerblading or skateboarding is a cheap and easy way to fit more activity into your day. The more time that our kids spend strapped into their booster seats on the way to school, activities or events, the less time they’re spending moving under their own steam. This is why thereport card gave active transportation a D grade. But what can we do about it? VancouverMom.ca recently connected with Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO of Active Healthy Kids Canada and a mom herself, to find out.
Jennifer says that 58% of us parents walked to school as kids – but only 28% of our children do. Our concerns about safety, our busy work schedules, and the distance that many of our kids are traveling to school, all conspire to keep us in our cars. But do we really need to drive so much? Jennifer challenges us to re-consider our situations, saying, “Do a check to see whether your barriers to active transportation are real or perceived.”
Walk a Kilometer
Walking or cycling to school doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. If you can’t do it every day (and Jennifer admits that her family isn’t able to, either), try to use active transportation one or two days a week. Or park your car further from the school, and get out and walk the last few blocks. Jennifer points out that adding a one kilometer walk works out to about 15 minutes of additional activity in your day. Kids’ activities can be expensive, and schedules can be difficult to juggle, but most of us can find 15 minutes to take a walk with our kids a few times a week.
Let’s be honest – when the rain is coming down, not many of us feel like heading out for a walk. But summer is here in Vancouver, which means this is a great time to get in the active transportation habit. If the kids are out of school, think of where else you can walk or cycle. Head to the library, visit a neighbourhood park, or walk to day camps. Jennifer says, “Kids’ activities will change all the time. Getting around under your own steam is a habit that will last a lifetime.” She also suggests going light on the organized activities this summer, saying, “Not every minute needs to be scheduled.” Once kids get outside, they’ll naturally engage in active play.
Active and Safe
This is all well and good, but what about keeping your kids safe? Not many parents are not comfortable with the idea of their five or six year olds walking to school by themselves. Jennifer suggests that you can start small. Teach your kids about safety. Find others to walk with, so that your kids aren’t alone. And get your school involved. Jennifer says, “Schools should consider implementation of safe walk-to-school travel plans and provide bike racks, and government strategies should ensure urban planning that supports safe communities for cycling and walking.” With Vancouver’s Greenest City goals, setting up programs to get people out of their cars just seems like good sense. The planet will thank us, and we’ll be instilling the active transportation habit in our kids.
How do you build active transportation into your life with kids? Please leave a reply and share your tips.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.