Toronto, ON – Many Canadian parents believe that an increase in time devoted to physical education can be more than just a benefit for their children’s health, but also their success in the classroom, according to a new Ipsos Reid study commissioned on behalf of Physical and Health Education Canada. Two in three (64%) Canadian parents with children 5-16 years of age believe that more time devoted to physical education can ‘improve’ (19% a lot/45% somewhat) their children’s success in math, science, and reading/writing. One in five (21%) say more physical education time would lead to the same amount of success in these subjects, while one in ten (7%) believe success in these subjects would ‘worsen’ (1% a lot/5% somewhat) due to more P.E. time, while 7% don’t know.
Research has shown that schools can increase the amount of time devoted to physical education without negatively impacting success in other subjects. Once being informed of this, nine in ten (85%) Canadian parents ‘support’ (60% strongly/25% somewhat) schools devoting more time to physical education, compared to only 4% who ‘oppose’ this or don’t know what kind of effect devoting more time to physical education would have. One in ten (11%) Canadian parents are indifferent to devoting more time to physical education, regardless of the effect.
Nine in ten Canadian parents believe that physical education (91%) is ‘important’ (50% very/41% somewhat) when thinking about their children’s education, compared to 5% who believe it’s ‘not important’ (1% not at all/4% not very) and 4% who are believe it’s neither important nor unimportant. A similar proportion (89%) of Canadian parents believe health education is ‘important’ (46% very/43% somewhat), although 4% believe it’s ‘not very important’ and 6% believe it’s neither important nor unimportant.
While a vast majority of Canadian parents believe both health and physical education are important to their children’s overall education, fewer are satisfied with the quality of teaching their children receive in these subjects. Three in four (77%) Canadian parents are ‘satisfied’ with the quality of health (23% very/54% somewhat) and physical education (26% very/51% somewhat) their children receive. One in ten parents say they’re ‘not satisfied with the quality of health (12%, 3% not at all/9% not very) and physical education (13%, 5% not very/8% not at all) their children receive, while another one in ten are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied (11% for physical education and 10% for health education).
Parents Believe Children are Active but Not Active Enough
While seven in ten Canadians parents agree that their children participate in active play with friends of family every day (72% agree vs. 17% disagree/10% indifferent) or that they participate in after school programs that promote physical activity (67% agree vs. 21% disagree/8% indifferent), fully half (50% agree vs. 38% disagree/11% indifferent) of parents are concerned that their child is not getting enough physical activity.
Further to the activities of their children, six in ten (62%) parents ‘agree’ (42% strongly/20% somewhat) that their child or children play organized sport. A similar proportion (61%), however, also ‘agree’ (23% strongly/38% somewhat) that their child or children spend(s) too much time watching TV or using the computer, with one in four (25%) who ‘disagree’ (9% strongly/16% somewhat) and 11% who are indifferent. Two in five (36%) parents ‘agree’ (9% strongly/27% somewhat) that their child or children eat(s) too much junk food, although half (52%) of parents ‘disagree’ (22% strongly/30% somewhat) and one in ten (11%) are indifferent.
Interestingly, parents are divided on how much physical education time their children receive according to their elementary school curriculum required by their province. Four in ten (42%) parents believe their children are required to get 75 minutes or less when it comes to time spent on physical education, while one in ten parents believe this outlined time to be 100 minutes per week (13%), 125 minutes per week (10%), 150 minutes per week (11%), or more than 150 minutes per week (12%). Two in ten (15%) parents don’t know how many minutes of physical education are required by their province’s elementary school curriculum.
In reality, the minimum amount of weekly instruction in physical education for elementary schools range from 75 minutes to 165 minutes per week, depending on the province or territory. After being informed of this, two in three (65%) parents believe that elementary students should receive 150 minutes or more physical education time every week. One in ten believe it should be either 125 minutes (14%), 100 minutes (8%), or 75 minutes (6%), the bare minimum. Only 2% of parents believe that elementary students should receive less than 75 minutes of physical education time every week, while 5% of parents don’t know.
Parents’ Responsibility and Involvement in Children’s Physical Activity
When reflecting on their own involvement with their children’s physical activity, most (94%) parents ‘agree’ (76% strongly/18% somewhat) that they’re responsible for the overall health of their child or children. Two in three (67%) ‘agree’ (31% strongly/36% somewhat) that they would advocate for better physical education at their child’s school if they felt the quality was low, while a majority (55%) of parents ‘agree’ (27% strongly/28% somewhat) that they would spend more time volunteering at their child’s school but they’re too busy.
Four in ten parents ‘agree’ that their child or children’s teachers need to help them understand their child’s health and physical abilities (42%, 12% strongly/30% somewhat) and that they trust the education system to ensure that children get enough physical activity (38%, 9% strongly/29% somewhat). Three in ten (30%) ‘agree’ (12% strongly/18% somewhat) that they regularly spend time volunteering at their child’s school while one in four (24%) ‘agree’ (6% strongly/18% somewhat) that they don’t know how to ensure that their child is getting enough physical activity.
Parents’ Views on Physical Education and Activity, Child Health, and Obesity
Most (94%) parents believe that physical activity among children is essential for healthy growth and development, while slightly fewer (89%) believe that physical education helps to prevent overweight/obesity among children. Three in four (76%) parents believe that children who are physically active are less likely to develop diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease later in life.
Nine in ten (90%) parents believe that physical education and activity help children to develop self-confidence, with three in four (76%) being of the opinion that children who are physically active tend to perform better academically. Seven in ten parents think that physically active children experience less social or emotional anxiety (71%), are more likely to become leaders in their community or career (71%), and are less likely to get involved in crime or gangs (70%). Two in three (65%) think physically active children are less likely to begin smoking or abuse drugs or alcohol.
Large proportions of Canadian parents believe that causes related to children’s health should be given more attention (86%) and that children in general do not get enough physical activity (84%). Four in five (79%) parents also believe that children would not be overweight or obese if they ate healthier foods, with only slightly fewer (77%) agreeing that children would not be overweight or obese if they got enough physical activity. Just one in four (23%) parents believe that ‘all this talk these days about kids and obesity is exaggerated’.
Where Health, Nutrition, and Obesity Rank Among Youth Issues
Given a list of important issues facing children and youth today, 14% of parents believe that obesity, lack of exercise, health, and nutrition is the most important issue facing youth today, only behind bullying (19%) and getting a good education (25%), and twice as important as other issues such as unemployment (5%), drugs and alcohol (6%), peer pressure (6%), and poverty (3%).
When asked to provide their top three issues facing youth today, three in ten (29%) parents place lack of physical activity or exercise, only behind bullying (42%) and fundamental skills in reading, writing, and math (34%) in their top three concerns. Further, two in ten (17%) place overweight children and obesity among their three most important concerns facing youth today, just slightly behind emotional and mental health (21%) and ahead of delinquent behaviour (13%) and ADD (3%).
Increasing Support and Funding for Physical Activity, Recreation, and Sport
Canadians, not just Canadian parents, believe that lack of funding is one of the most important issues facing their province’s education system. In fact, given a list of issues facing their school system, lack of funding from government or other sources (23%) is the most commonly selected issue of Canadians and Canadian parents, ahead of lack of qualified teachers (11% overall/10% parents) and the individual cost of education (9% total/8% parents).
Canadians certainly believe the government, both federally and provincially, could be doing more in terms of health promotion and disease prevention measures. Nine in ten (85%) Canadians ‘agree’ (43% strongly/42% somewhat) that the federal and provincial governments should devote a greater percentage of the health care budget to investing in preventative measures so people do not get sick in the first place, although 4% ‘disagree’ (1% strongly/3% somewhat), and 7% are indifferent.
Four in five (78%) Canadians also ‘agree’ (42% strongly/36% somewhat) that of the $200 billion spent on health care in Canada each year, they support increasing the proportion spent on health promotion and disease prevention measures like physical activity, recreation, or sport from less than 1 percent to 2 percent. One in ten (9%) ‘disagree’ (4% strongly/5% somewhat) with this sentiment while another one in ten (8%) are indifferent.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between June 25th to 28th, 2012 on behalf of Physical and Health Education Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,720 Canadians, including an oversample resulting in 497 Canadian parents with children ages 5 to 16, from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 2.7 percentage points had all Canadians adults been polled, and within +/- 5 percentage points of all Canadian parents with children ages 5-16. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
For more information on this news release, please contact:
Associate Vice President
Ipsos Reid Public Affairs
About Ipsos Reid
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