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Healthy Weights in Canadian ChildrenPublished: ()

A healthy weight in childhood is critical to a healthy future

Obesity means having too much body fat and it can negatively affect a child's health and well-being. An obese child will likely become an obese adult. Obesity in adulthood has been linked to many conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and poor emotional health.

Childhood obesity levels remain high

Over the last 35 years, obesity rates among Canadian children and youth aged 6-17 years have more than doubled, from 6% in 1978/79 to 13% in 2013/14. Over the past 10 years, although there have been efforts to reduce childhood obesity, there has been no significant decline in childhood obesity and rates have remained stable but high. [CMAJ] [Statistics Canada]

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports regularly on a variety of factors associated with obesity and provides helpful tips to achieve the healthiest lifestyle possible.

A healthy lifestyle in childhood can have long lasting benefits

Healthy eating, physical activity, limited sedentary time and adequate sleep, are important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Eat well

43.6% of youth 12-19 years old report eating fruits or vegetables five or more times a day.

Eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is a good marker of a healthy diet.

Drink water

13.4% of children 5-11 years old and 21.3% of youth 12-17 years old said they drink 1 or more sugar-sweetened beverages every day. The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, like fruit-flavoured juice, soft drinks, and sports/energy drinks, has risen dramatically in recent years and can increase the risk of obesity. [Healthy Canadians]

Make water your beverage of choice! Choose it instead of beverages that are high in calories or sugar.

Be active!

13.6% of children 5-11 years old are achieving the recommended 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-physical activity daily. That number drops to only 5% for older children (12-17 years old). [CSEP Guidelines]

Exercise boosts agility, coordination, brain power and intellect! Making it a habit at an early age will provide your child with lifelong health benefits.

Limit screen time

75.9% of children 5-11 years old are limiting their screen time to no more than 2 hours per day, as recommended. In contrast, only 25.1% of older children (12-17 years old) are meeting this recommendation. [CSEP Guidelines]

Regardless of how much physical activity they are getting, children should have limited screen-based activities.

Get your zzzz’s

81.8% of children ages 5-11 and 67.0% of youth aged 12-17 are getting adequate daily sleep. [CSEP Guidlines]

Getting the right amount and quality of sleep can help reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Dive Into the Data

Childhood Obesity Rates by Age Group

The table below shows the persistently high levels of obesity among Canadian children and youth in the last decade.

Childhood Obesity Rates by Age Group (%)
Years Ages 6 to 11 Ages 12 to 17
Childhood Obesity Rate
and 95% Confidence Interval (%)
Childhood Obesity Rate
and 95% Confidence Interval (%)
2004 13.9 +/- 2.1 12.3 +/- 1.7
2007 - 2009 14.6 +/- 3.0 15.3 +/- 5.2
2009 - 2011 13.3 +/- 3.4 10.2 +/- 3.4
2012 - 2013 9.6 +/- 2.6 16.6 +/- 5.5

Childhood Obesity Rates by Sex

The table below details that obesity levels have remained persistently high for both Canadian boys and girls.

Childhood Obesity Rates by Sex (%)
Years Boys Girls
Childhood Obesity Rate
and 95% Confidence Interval (%)
Childhood Obesity Rate
and 95% Confidence Interval (%)
2004 15.5 +/- 2.1 10.6 +/- 1.7
2007 - 2009 17.9 +/- 3.5 11.9 +/- 3.4
2009 - 2011 14.7 +/- 2.6 8.2 +/- 2.5
2012 - 2013 15.3 +/- 4.8 10.8 +/- 2.3

A confidence interval (as indicated above), is a range within which we can say, with a degree of accuracy (or confidence), that an estimate falls within. When comparing estimates over time, it is important to keep confidence intervals in mind. If the confidence intervals of two estimates overlap, that means that the two estimates do not, in fact, differ. Conclusions should therefore only be drawn after one has compared estimates and their confidence intervals.

For more information and related material please visit:

[Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth]

[Chronic Disease and Injury Indicator Framework]

[Sedentary Behaviour in Children and Youth: A New Health Risk]

[Towards a Healthier Canada – 2015 Progress Report on Advancing the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Framework on Health Weights]

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