Nov. 27, 2014
By Rob Ferguson
The push for kids to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day to improve their health and study skills is getting a $1 million boost.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has signed on to the “Active at School” coalition helped by a donation from Canadian Tire and will work with the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association to come up with voluntary programs at schools.
“This isn’t just about competitive athletics, this is about activity,” Wynne said at the former Maple Leaf Gardens after leading soccer drills with dozens of children.
Thanks to video games and hand-held electronics, “the lure of the couch has gotten greater over the years,” added Wynne, an avid runner, noting more must be done to combat rising childhood obesity and diabetes rates.
Under the program, already adopted by Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, pilot programs will be established at 20 Ontario schools early next year with plans to increase that to 250 schools the following year.
The goal is to get all Ontario schools involved by 2018, said Canadian Tire president Michael Medline.
That 60 minutes can include walking or biking to and from school along with any extracurricular activities - not just organized sports or gym classes.
“It shouldn’t be all competitive, it should be fun,” Medline said.
Activities can include exercise that builds on school lessons, such as a forest hike for a science class, or activities during the lunch hour or before and after school, said Wynne.
Ontario elementary students are now supposed to get 20 minutes of phys-ed classes daily but “it varies...that’s why 60 minutes a day is so important,” Wynne told reporters.
Education Minister Liz Sandals said she’d like to see more children getting to school under their own power.
“There’s an alarming number of children who are driven to school instead of walking or biking.”