Originally published Jan. 29, 2019 in The Province.

By Ravi Kahlon

January is over, but it’s not too late to put New Year’s resolutions into action. For thousands of British Columbians, that means hitting the gym or trying new ways to get physically active.

To reach their full potential, kids need to be physically active too, but the reality is far too many of them aren’t getting the physical activity they need to thrive. In November 2018, ParticipACTION released its 2018 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, which gave Canadian children a score of D+ for overall physical activity. It reported that only 35 percent of Canadian kids aged five-17 years old and 62 percent of three- to four-year-olds are getting the recommended physical activity levels for their age group. Tens of thousands of our young people are missing out on the protective mental and physical health benefits of being active.

The Brookswood Bobcats of Langley played the Semiahmoo Totems in last year’s Triple-A provincial girls basketball tournament. The B.C. government encouraged parents to get all kids involved in sports or physical activities. Francis Georgian / Postmedia News Files

This urgently needs to change.

Physical activity builds strong bones and muscles. It also boosts brain power, contributing to social and academic success. Kids who are active and involved in sports tend to do better at school, are more socially connected and are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression or to engage in risky behaviours. They also learn valuable skills like enhanced teamwork and co-operation, goal setting and decision making. When kids learn how to run, jump, throw, hop, skip, kick and catch they develop confidence to participate in physical activities and thus increases the likelihood of them being active for life. The optimal time to develop these skills is between birth and age 11.

As a former Olympian, I have experienced first-hand the life-long benefits that sports provide. From improving physical and mental health, to gaining important skills in teamwork and making lifelong friends to creating close community ties. Through my own involvement with sport as an athlete and coach, I’ve seen how participating in sport can impact the lives of people and the communities that they live. As parliamentary secretary for sports and multiculturalism, I am proud of the work our government is doing to help improve participation rates for kids in sport.

In 2016, the Education Ministry implemented a new physical and health education curriculum. Physical education focuses on the development of physical literacy, which will contribute to building the competence and confidence students will need to participate in a variety of activities — whether they are playing sports, dancing, engaging in recreational activities or walking to school. To help kids acquire these skills, our government has invested in provincial, regional and community organizations, as well as teachers so that they can better design, train and deliver quality programs.

We are also working on strategies to expand participation in amateur sports, recreational sports and physical literacy for years to come.

Participating in physical activity and sports are important ways to maintain and improve health and well-being and prevent the onset of chronic disease, the largest contributor to health-care costs. In B.C., it is estimated that physical inactivity costs the health care system $983 million a year.

We know kids need encouragement and support at home to embrace physical activity outside of gym class. That’s where parents, uncles, aunts and guardians can make a critical difference.

This year, let’s resolve to introduce children to new sports and activities, lead by example by pursuing our own fitness goals and making time to be active together. The extra effort we put in now can provide life-long, life-changing benefits.

Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon is B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for sport and multiculturalism. He is a two-time Olympian in Field Hockey.

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    Kids need physical activity to thrive and stay healthy through their lives
    Kids need to be physically active too, but the reality is far too many of them aren’t getting the physical activity they need to thrive.
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