Rethinking Physical Activity Messaging for Youth: A Focus on Fun

The annual grade ParticipACTION awarded to youth for overall physical activity in Canada for this year was a D+. This is incredibly low, and clearly indicates something is wrong with our society’s approach to physical activity. So, what must change?

Until recently, we often promoted physical activity to youth because it would fight obesity and lower the risk for disease later on in life. Yet, are kids really going to get off the couch and stop playing video games so they can lower their disease risk at age 65? Not likely.

Today’s society is rapidly advancing, yet we are forgetting to modernize a crucial component to physical activity: the way we market it to students! No longer is the fear of obesity going to influence a six year old to be more active. Frankly, it probably never did. Instead, messages of fun and well-being and feeling good should be attached to “why is physical activity important”! There are so many benefits beyond physical ones that result from activity, such as improved mood, less stress and improved academic performance.

In addition, this style of messaging allows for children of all backgrounds, abilities and socioeconomic status to feel the same way about physical activity. The focus needs to move away from how physical activity will change your body, as this often promotes a negative body image and low self esteem in youth. Instead, a feeling of well-being can be universally shared by all children. Creating fun and positive active experiences that improves the way one feels requires very little resources, and is a much better incentive to be active than simply changing the way one looks.

By rethinking the way we message physical activity to youth, we are able to inspire more participation in physical activity, as well as motivation to be more active in life! A focus on fun is universally understood and attainable, and this will make all the difference.

 For the full PartipACTION report, visit https://participaction.cdn.prismic.io/participaction%2F38570bed-b325-4fc8-8855-f15c9aebac12_2018_participaction_report_card_-_full_report_0.pdf

For a more in-depth article explaining the importance of re-branding physical activity messaging, visit https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/apnm-2018-0479#.XNGbUpNKjUo. “Youth get a D+ grade in physical activity: How can we change public health messages to help reverse this.

Submitted by: Paige Callaghan