Youth not active enough, especially girls, says researcher

One of the main points coming out of the recently released 2012 Get Active Toronto Report on Physical Activity is that youth are not active enough, especially girls, says one of the report’s researchers and York professor.

“There is much we can do to foster a love of physical activity in recreation in youth,” says Professor Parissa Safai of York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health. She was on the research committee responsible for the main report and was the lead researcher for all the qualitative components of the report.

Safai designed and analyzed the research exercises with more than 140 youth at a youth summit. She also compiled a series of community snapshots with York kinesiology and health science PhD student Alana Harrington to highlight physical activity promotion success stories in Toronto and the GTA.

The report highlights seven key recommendations targeted at increasing physical activity among youth. Those recommendations, says Safai, include ways to support girls – the least physically active population group in Canada.

As Safai says, “Physical activity in youth is critical in the development of lifelong habits.”

But what the report found is “low levels of physical activity have not changed much over the last decade….only 42 per cent of Torontonians are physically activity during leisure time.”

Among the seven highlights, the report found that girls may require a different approach; there is a large knowing-doing gap among youth when it comes to physical activity; socio-cultural barriers make a difference; schools play an important role in fostering physical activity; and the environment, including walkable neighborhoods and safe recreation spaces, can make a difference.

Safai has been a part of the Get Active Toronto research team since 2008. “This year's report focuses on what we can do to help youth be more active. Together, Torontonians are in a position to reduce or eliminate many of the barriers that face our children and youth,” she says. “But we still need to be aware of the gaps in our knowledge of physical activity and encourage funders and researchers to continue to work together to help us all develop a more complete picture of physical activity in Toronto so that we can reduce all of the barriers we face.”

One of the ways to help youth is to encourage adults to display positive attitudes about physical activity and to be better role models for young people. “We need to understand that social isolation, embarrassment and peer pressure also contribute to physical inactivity in youth,” says Safai.

To view the 2012 Get Active Toronto Report on Physical Activity, visit the Get Active Toronto website.

Get Active Toronto is a public-private collaborative seeking positive change in the physical activity levels of Torontonians.

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