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Campaigns don't boost kids' fitness

September 12, 2016 10:30 A.M.
Heather Gainforth (UBCO)

By DAVID WYLIE

Public awareness campaigns encouraging parents to get their kids to exercise aren't helping, a UBC Okanagan study suggests.

In fact, one PSA was found to be detrimental, said Heather Gainforth, an assistant professor of health and exercise sciences at UBC's Okanagan campus.

The study uncovers a Catch-22, acknowledging that more needs to be done to instill confidence in parents to get their kids active, while at the same time finding public service announcements don't seem to work.

"With statistics outside this study showing 88 per cent of parents believe their children exercise enough and only seven per cent of kids meet recommended guidelines, it is clear more needs to be done," said Gainforth. "While mass media campaigns appear to increase awareness, parents need the support of public policies and programs to help them successfully encourage behaviour change.

"Without that support, parents may not have the tools they need to help their kids become more active."

Gainforth surveyed 700 parents of children aged five to 17 across Canada three months after ParticipACTION’s 2011 Think Again campaign aired, and another 700 parents 15 months after. 

The study found that parents who saw the campaign were on average less confident that they could encourage their kids to exercise more.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says a lack of exercise is one of the contributing factors that has led more than 25 per cent of Canadian children to become overweight or obese. 

Gainforth's study was recently published in the journal of Health, Education and Behaviour.

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