Too much screen time, not enough exercise or fruits and veg for Montreal sixth graders: survey

A first-ever snapshot of the health and well-being of Montreal sixth graders shows there is lots of room for improvement.

The survey of 13,400 Grade Six students and 7,800 parents was conducted last year by the regional public health department and the Centre-Sud Health and Social Services Agency with the help of the city of Montreal and school boards.

The report showed that while almost all respondents thought they were healthy:
- 65% don't get enough exercise;
- 62% don't eat enough fruits and vegetables
- 40% spend two or more hours a day in front of a screen, be it tv, videogames or Internet

The survey suggested students from low income neighbourhoods are more likely to consume sugary drinks and eat fast food at least three times a week and spend more than four hours a day in front of a screen.

Corinne Voyer of the Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems said responsible eating and exercise habits may start at home but,

"Our kids are passing most of their time at school," said Voyer.

Voyer said schools and cities have their role to play, citing restrictions on sugary drinks and fast food outlet re-zoning.

"If we don't do anything, we will be more sick and more obese and this is not what we want," said Voyer in an interview with CJAD 800 News.

The survey also showed that the majority of the children came from immigrant families: almost 60% have one or both parents born outside of Canada and speak more than one language at home.

The survey said one in 20 students is at high risk of dropping out, recommending that the situation should be closely monitored "since the risk increases during the first years of high school."