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Canada’s First “State of the Nation” Report on Children’s Physical Literacy Results from Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy findings on >10,000 children

Two UPEI papers among the first released from landmark study
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The following is released by the University of Prince Edward Island, in co-ordination with research institutions across the country, as participants and co-investigators on the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy (CAPL)

The results from a large national research project led by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute shows that about two-thirds of Canadian children haven’t achieved an acceptable level of physical literacy. Physical literacy moves beyond just fitness or motor skill; it includes the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.

Fourteen articles that looked at different aspects of physical literacy and the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy (CAPL) were published today as a special supplement in the journal BMC Public Health. More than 10,000 children, aged eight to 12, from 11 sites across the country participated in the study through the CHEO Research Institute and research partners. Using the CAPL, children were assessed on a number of different areas.

The results demonstrate that more needs to be done to ensure Canadian children are physically literate. “We hear about increasing obesity rates in kids, falling rates of physical activity and more time spent in front of screens,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Senior Scientist at the CHEO Research Institute and Director for HALO. “Physical literacy looks at different domains in children to give a better overall picture of children’s healthy active living and future health. Physically literate children become more active and healthy children, which sets them up for life.” 

Two of the articles published today were led by UPEI researchers. Dr. Travis Saunders, assistant professor of applied human sciences, examined the relationship between sedentary behaviour and physical literacy.

“We found that children who spend more time watching TV or playing video games had lower physical literacy,” said Dr. Saunders. “This suggests that minimizing screen time may help promote the development of physical literacy.”

Dr. Dany MacDonald, associate professor and chair of applied human sciences, used CAPL data to explore the roles adequacy and predilection for physical activity play in a child’s physical literacy.

“The findings suggest that children’s perception of adequacy and predilection need to be considered to fully understand how physical literacy develops in this age group,” said Dr. MacDonald. “In addition, it was also found that a child’s cardiovascular fitness had the strongest association with adequacy and predilection to physical activity, suggesting a complex relationship a children’s physical and psychological states and physical literacy.”

The HALO Research Group has been developing and refining the CAPL for the past 10 years.  It’s a robust tool that is valid, reliable and feasible and is being used across the country and internationally. The results of this research provide the first comprehensive assessment of the physical literacy of Canadian children.

“Through this project, we provide comprehensive evidence that Canadian children aged eight to 12 years are falling short of standards for components of physical literacy,” said Dr. Mark Tremblay. “For example, boys and girls across Canada have aerobic fitness levels at the 30th percentile of global norms and only 20% are meeting physical activity guidelines.”

“These results show us that more needs to be done,” continues Tremblay. “Every organization concerned with the well-being of children, whether provincial governments, municipal public health and recreation departments, boards of education and sports or recreation groups, should allocate increased resources to increase children’s physical literacy. Addition education campaigns, greater priority in school curricula and increased numbers of physical education specialists could have a real impact in the health of Canada’s children.”

Findings from this project have led to further refinements of the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy and the release of the second edition of the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy, or CAPL-2. “Ensuring that we have the right tools for coaches, educators and parents is an important way to increase physical literacy in Canada,” says Pat Longmuir, Scientist with the CHEO Research Institute, HALO Research Group. “The CAPL-2 is a shorter, easier to administer series of tests that can be used to assess and monitor physical literacy in Canada. The materials are available in both English and French, free of charge at www.capl.eclp.ca.”

This research study was made possible in part with support from the RBC Learn to Play Project, an initiative funded by RBC and the Public Health Agency of Canada and delivered in partnership with ParticipACTION, with additional support from Mitacs.

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.

Dave Atkinson
Research Communications Officer
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