Young Nova Scotians need to cut down on sugary snacks and get more physically active, says a study released today, May 14. The study, entitled Physical Activity Levels and Dietary Intake of Children and Youth in the Province of Nova Scotia 2005, found that youth decrease physical activity as they get older, and that half of students in grades 7 and 11 did not meet the minimum recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide. “These findings are a real concern and they reinforce the importance of supporting Nova Scotian families in their efforts to become more physically active and to make better food choices,” said Barry Barnet, Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. “I believe things like the School Food and Nutrition policy and the upcoming renewal of the Active Kids Healthy Kids strategy are the right steps to take toward addressing the challenges presented within this report.” The report by Department of Health Promotion and Protection and Department of Education identifies the percentage of students that had 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five days a week. It also includes the percentage of Grade 7 and Grade 11 students that met the minimum recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide for grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk products, and meat and alternatives. The research was led by Phil Campagna from Dalhousie University and Laurie Wadsworth from St. Francis Xavier University. The number of Grade 3 students who achieved 60 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity at least five days a week increased from 2001. The number of boys hitting the benchmark rose to 96.7 per cent from 90 per cent and girls were at 96.1 per cent from 92.3. The number of active Grade 7 students decreased. Boys dropped to 45.3 per cent from 62.2 in 2001, and girls tumbled to 23.8 per cent in 2005 from 45.3 per cent in 2001. Grade 11 students were even less active. Boys were down to 9.7 per cent from 12.6 per cent in 2001. Girls were at less than one per cent in 2005 from 6.9 per cent in 2001. “The Department of Education is working very hard to help school boards provide high quality physical education programs, Primary to Grade 12,” said Education Minister Karen Casey. “But people also have to understand that the problem of youth inactivity is a shared responsibility. Schools are only part of the solution.” The researchers used a random sample of 2,300 students from 80 schools in grades 3, 7, and 11. Accelerometers, body-mass index measurements and questionnaires were used to determine activity, fitness and eating and activity habits. In 2001, the same methods also showed that physical activity decreased as children grew older. Recognizing the link between physical activity and healthy eating, and their impact on overall health, the 2005 study expanded on the 2001 report to include a dietary questionnaire for students in grades 7 and 11. Since 2005, the province has introduced the Food and Nutrition Policy in public schools in all grades. This policy will be phased in over three years and will provide access to healthy foods and beverages and remove foods of minimum nutritional value. “These data are crucial in our efforts to keep our children healthy and active over a lifetime,” said Mr. Barnet. “We will use this information to continue to improve our policies and programs and provide more opportunities and support to help our young people be active and eat well.” The full report can be found at www.gov.ns.ca/hpp .