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If sport is important for kids, why not adults?

Friday, May 29, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders

I saw an interesting article yesterday in the Ottawa Citizen that I wanted to share with our readers. As in the rest of Canada, ice time in Ottawa's arenas is at a premium. Unlike gymnasiums and outdoor fields which require relatively little maintenance, rinks require an entire full-time staff to create and maintain the ice, as well as the expensive machinery which makes indoor ice possible. These overhead costs make rinks, and ice time, an expensive and precious commodity, and I would wager that most urban centers in Canada could use more rinks than they currently have.

All of this brings us to my current hometown of Ottawa, which is evaluating the way that ice time is allotted in its arenas. Although minor hockey (and to a lesser extent ringette) receives the majority of the "prime-time" ice-time (e.g. 4-9pm) in Ottawa, there is still a considerable amount which is given to adult hockey leagues. One of the changes being considered by the City of Ottawa would see adults excluded from all time-slots before 9pm, which would then be given exclusively to the use of minor hockey.

Now this is obviously a win-lose. More sport opportunities for kids is a great thing, but it also means less opportunities for physical activity for adults, many of whom claim that their leagues will fold if they are forced to play late into the night.  What I find interesting about this article is that it shows how our society seems to value sport participation for youth (especially boys), but far less so for adults.  I'm sure we all know people who were tremendous athletes in high school, only to completely abstain from sports the moment that their high school or college days were over.  That the city is considering shifting adult ice-usage to the late-night time slot seems to reinforce the view that sports have valuable physical and social implications for children and youth, but not adults. 

I would also be shocked to hear that any children are avoiding hockey because of too little ice-time (if i am off-base on this, please voice your opinion in the comments section).  According to this article in the Ottawa Citizen, last year nearly 400 "prime-time" hours which had been slated for minor hockey went completely unused.   Further, hockey is a very expensive sport, and although players come from diverse backgrounds, I would be shocked if the majority were not from the middle and upper classes.  These are the same kids who are likely to have access to other sports, and who frankly should be playing a wide range of sports in order to develop their physical literacy (an interesting topic which I hope to touch on in future posts).

For a fair number of the men who play in these recreational leagues (sadly, I don't know of any adult female recreational hockey teams/leagues, although I am sure they must exist), their one or two games each week is the only physical activity that they receive.  If we assume that most of them are getting about 20 minutes of ice time each game, that means they are getting about 40 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, an amount that could conceivably reduce their risk for quite a few chronic diseases.  I'm sure that some will continue to participate if they are forced into the late-night time-slots, but some won't, and I hate to see any decision that could reduce physical activity levels in any population.

I would never argue for less opportunities for childhood physical activity, nor would I expect anyone else would without offending the majority of the population.  However, it's interesting that reducing opportunities for adult physical activity is seen as a viable option.  We make time for sports for children because it is important, and I hope we keep spots available for adults for the same reason.  This is the final week of the City of Ottawa's consultation phase, so if you have a strong feeling on this issue one way or another, this may be your last chance to be heard.  For an interesting article on the comments received in response to yesterday's Ottawa Citizen article, click here.

Have a great weekend,


Related Posts:

1.  Public Transit Users Get More Physical Activity
2.  Sleep and Childhood Obesity
3.  The Bluenose Youth Run

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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