06/10/2015 12:21 EDT | Updated 06/10/2016 05:59 EDT

Get Off Your Butt and Take Your Kids Outside

On Tuesday, ParticipACTION, which promotes healthy living and physical activity in Canada, unveiled their 2015 Report Card On Physical Activity for Children and Youth. The results are pathetic, with a D- for overall physical activity, in part because just nine per cent of five to 17-year-olds meet daily recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. This grade remains unchanged since 2013. Apparently we haven't changed our behaviour.

A small saving grace, 70 per cent cent of three and four-year-olds get the recommended 180 minutes of daily activity. Disappointingly, this small group was not able to raise the overall mark.

The report titled, "The Biggest Risk is Keeping Kids Indoors," demonstrates that way too many kids (and their caregivers) spend far too many hours inside, most likely interacting with screens, and too few hours outside.

For those of you who are still reading this and not lacing up your shoes to get outside, we know why being outside is good for us. Regular physical activity is associated with improved cardiovascular and metabolic health such as lowered blood pressure and decreased risk of diabetes. Emotional well-being and mental health are improved as well, with a smaller risk to depression and anxiety in those who are most active.

The study highlights a few important points:

• Kids move more, sit less, and play longer when they are outside.

• Outdoor play is safe -- the risk of a stranger abduction in Canada is one in 14 million and the risk of death as a pedestrian playing outside is less than death while in a car.

• Air quality is often better outside versus inside.

• Spending time in front of screen increases the risk of cyber-predators and violence.

• Inactivity increases the risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

So what should we do? I think this is easy. Get off your butt and go outside, AS A FAMILY. Enough is enough; we need to change our culture and our sedentary ways. TV can wait, email can wait. This blog can wait.

Kids learn from us, they model healthy (or not-so-healthy) behaviour. They see us being vegetables (and not eating enough vegetables!). We should reconnect as a family and with nature and explore this amazing country. I am not talking about anything elaborate, unless you desire. Go for a walk, a hike, explore the nearest ravine or park. Ride a bike, strap on some skates, do a cannonball into your nearby swimming pool or lake, which over half of Canadians have never done!) Just go outside!

Watching my kids when they are outside inspires me to spend more time outside myself. They see such beauty and wonder in things I hardly notice. While you are busy worrying about your endless emails, what to make for dinner, or when you'll get the laundry done, your kids may be taking in the vast array of colors in a tree, how the caterpillar moves on the ground, or the way the water flows over rocks. These are just a few of the simple things my two-year-old pointed out to me on our last ravine walk. His appreciation for nature around us lead me to pay better attention to the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. It was beautiful.

So please, do yourself and your kids a favour. Spend some time outside this week, this weekend and this summer. Love it now and continue this in the winter. I know it is cold, but snow is still fun. Do you remember how much fun you had throwing snowballs at your friends when you were young, or the delights in making snow angels? This is fun as an adult too, I promise.

Let's work together to change this pathetic D- to an A, or at least a B. Your kids, your heart and your mind will thank you for it.


How To Handle Your Kids' Extracurricular Activities