Generational Divide: Teens Spending Less than Half the Time their Parents did on Outdoor Activities

Teens Spending Less than Half the Time their Parents did on Outdoor Activities

A new study of Canadian parents and teens found that teens are spending only 7.9 hours per week being active outdoors – less than half of the 17.5 hours their parents spent participating in outdoor activities just a generation earlier.

The survey, conducted by Hill + Knowlton Perspectives, points to growing motivational and cultural barriers to explain why teens are spending more time indoors. Sixty per cent of parents identified interest in indoor activities such as video games and social media as the leading barrier to getting their teens outside, followed by the influence of the teen’s friends. Lack of opportunity and infrastructure were key secondary barriers cited, including access to activities and the high cost of organized sports. Only one in five survey respondents said they place a high priority on spending time being active outdoors as a family.

“Regular physical activity, including time spent being active outdoors, can help teens reduce the risk of chronic disease, make friends, improve self-esteem, confidence and mental health, and even improve concentration and their grades.  Unfortunately, only five per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds are getting the 60 minutes of heart-pumping movement they need each day,” says Elio Antunes, President and CEO of ParticipACTION, a national non-profit organization that helps Canadians sit less and move more.

In response, ParticipACTION Teen Challenge sponsored by Coca-Cola Canada has launched the #BeAnOutsider challenge. From October 5 to November 6, teens and community organizations who Tweet or Instagram a photo of themselves getting active outdoors with the hashtag #BeAnOutsider will be entered to win weekly prizes including Canadian Tire gift cards and ParticipACTION prize packs. For more information, visit http://beanoutsider.tumblr.com.

Despite the decline in time spent outdoors, 90 per cent of the parents surveyed agreed that being active outdoors is very good for the mental and physical health of teens. The recent ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth found that people who are more connected to nature tend to be happier[1]. Positive experiences at a young age can foster nature connectedness and influence behaviours like time spent outdoors and participation in heart-pumping physical activities.

Teens who participated in the survey understood the benefits of outdoor activity and appreciated the outdoors as an escape, but also for spending time with friends and being competitive and active.

“Being outside is different. There’s competitiveness, but it can also take the edge off from school or work,” said Shantaro, 18, from Toronto, ON.

“[Outdoor activities with family] give time to think and talk about everything,” said Riley, 14 from St. Albert, AB.

“There are so many green areas here, but there isn’t always something to do with them. Having games and sports available would be fun,” said Connor, 14 from Red Deer, AB.

ParticipACTION Teen Challenge provides microgrants of up to $500 for 13-19 year-olds to get physically active in their communities through programs that the teens help design themselves. The grants have paid for everything from basketball coaches to breakdancing instructors, pedometers for a walking club, transportation to ski hills, prizes for leadership events, tournament entrance fees and necessary equipment, such as Kin-Balls, kayak rentals or team jerseys.  To date, ParticipACTION Teen Challenge has encouraged over 400,000 teens and 5,000 community organizations to work together to design local activities.

“There’s a clear need for programs like the ParticipACTION Teen Challenge to help youth find the resources and tools to be active in their community,” says Yolanda Dasselaar, Senior Manager of Company and Category Sustainability at Coca-Cola Ltd.

ParticipACTION Teen Challenge is funded by a 10-year, $10 million commitment from Coca-Cola Canada, and is delivered through a unique network of 13 provincial-territorial coordinating organizations, which in turn support community organizations at the local level.

For more information about ParticipACTION Teen Challenge, sponsored by Coca-Cola Canada, including over 500 local teen success stories, please visit www.participaction.com/teen-challenge.

James Chung

Founder & Editor in Chief of Hello Vancity magazine. Email james@hellovancity.com

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