Bioethics Blogs

Let’s stop talking about children and exercise.

Samantha Brennan suggests shifting the dialogue about childhood fitness from exercise to daily movement.


I think it’s time to reframe the discussion about children and physical fitness in light of the abysmal record of the under 15 set. While most commentators have chimed in in favour of unsupervised, active, outdoor play, rather than adding my voice to the chorus I want to suggest that we stop thinking about children and working out. Let’s ditch talk of exercise and start thinking about daily movement. While we’re at it let’s also think about the long-term health risks of inactivity and weigh those on the scale when we’re calculating how risky it is for our children to walk or ride their bikes to school.

The facts: Canada’s children just got a D-minus in physical fitness for the third year in a row. Just 9% of Canada’s children between the ages of 9 and 15 meet the recommended guideline of one hour of activity per day. Experts are blaming the dismal showing on the so-called “protection paradox.” Parents try to keep children safe by not allowing them to move freely between home and school, or engage in active, outdoor play, but as a result our children are leading increasingly sedentary lives.

It’s ironic that in the era of treadmill desks, standing desks, and moving meetings in which we seem to pay a lot of attention to workplace movement, it’s children who might be sitting the most. “Sitting is the new smoking,” say public health experts and no one would allow their children to smoke.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.