Active Sudbury champions physical literacy for children while schools, recreation centres and early learning facilities declare it a priority following the pandemic

School children have become alarmingly less active since the beginning of the pandemic, and now organizations in Sudbury are coming together to fight that trend by declaring physical literacy a priority for the area’s school boards, sport and recreation centres, and early childhood education facilities. 

“As we look ahead to increase physical activity and to decrease sedentary behaviours in the population, the need for improving physical literacy is greater than ever before. It is crucial that we embrace physical literacy as a catalyst for children and youth to be active and healthy,” reads a December 2022 letter from Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

“We know that it takes a village to raise a child and the collaboration of multiple sectors to embed physical literacy development in plans, programs, and policies. Therefore the Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts encourages all school boards, sport and recreation organizations, and early learning centres across Sudbury and districts to work to improve physical activity levels among children and youth through collaboration with agencies that provide comprehensive physical literacy programming.”

Sudbury is one of the communities that has participated in the country-wide Physical Literacy for Communities (PL4C) project, with their local chapter Active Sudbury working closely with Sport for Life. 

This letter follows an October 2022 presentation to board members in which Public Health Sudbury & Districts’s program manager Nicole Gauthier made a presentation urging schools to make children’s health a priority. There are currently around 29,000 students across the 120 schools in the district, and she said they’ve suffered unintended consequences due to stay-at-home orders – including a meteoric rise in screen time. 

“Overall, children’s mental health may have been negatively impacted. Parents of young children reported more behavioural difficulties like hyperactivity and conduct problems, while adolescents were more likely to have increased anxiety and depressive symptoms,” she said. 

According to Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ medical officer of health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, children’s physical activity levels have declined significantly during COVID-19 with only 37.2 per cent reaching the recommended activity goals for youth compared to 50.8 per cent in 2018. 

Sport for Life’s Senior Director of Physical Literacy Drew Mitchell applauded the moves Sudbury is making to address the sedentary lifestyle epidemic, praising the cross-sectoral collaboration that’s become necessary to make a meaningful impact.

“The numbers are troubling nation-wide, and if we want to address inactivity in our school-aged children then we’ll need a truly collaborative approach to getting them moving again. The work being done in Sudbury could be used as an example for every community that is currently struggling with this issue. As part of the PL4C program, Sudbury is once again proving that they’re on the cutting edge of addressing these problems and we can’t wait to see the results.”