Ontario teens need to get moving

p58Canadian teens need to increase their physical exercise every day for a lifetime of good health.

Research from ParticipACTION, the national voice for physical activity and sport participation in Canada, shows that only four per cent of Canadian youth aged 12 to 17 get enough heart-pumping exercise on a daily basis.

To address this growing issue, Participaction Teen Challenge, sponsored by Coca-Cola Canada, encourages teenagers to establish healthy habits for life and that includes fostering social interactions that build their confidence and self-esteem.

The program helps to remove the barriers that prevent physical activity – namely cost and accessibility – providing teens with access to the equipment, facilities, instruction, or the transportation needed to get active.

Teen Challenge gives community organizations in Ontario access to micro-grants that enable this age group to get active and have fun in ways that mean something to them. The community groups work with local teens to identify needs within their neighbourhood and come up with solutions to meet them.

The successes of Teen Challenge are exemplified by numerous success stories in Ontario, such as the CrossFit Club for students at Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School in Mississauga.

Kick started with a micro-grant in 2013, the club has doubled in size since it began. The program introduces teens to CrossFit’s all-or-nothing exercise culture and gives them a chance to compete in an actual CrossFit gym competition.

Focusing on providing special access, the club offers girlsonly options, including a weight training club and lunchtime fitness classes for female students.

“The beauty of Teen Challenge is that it empowers our youth to be creative and come up with physical activity ideas that suit their peers, in their local neighbourhoods,” says Elio Antunes, president and CEO of Participaction.

“Once teenagers get active and participate in regular physical activity, it can help them to do better in school, to grow stronger, feel happier, improve their self-confidence and learn new skills. A program of this kind can do so much good.”

The Lincoln M. Alexander CrossFit Club has made a significant difference in the lives of teens in that community, Antunes says, empowering them to take control of their health.

If you are a community-level organizer in Ontario, more information is available at www.participaction.com/teenchallenge, where you can also apply for a micro-grant.