EMC News – Colin Harris is turning his “personal dream” to run all the way across Canada into an opportunity to deliver an inspirational message to young people.
The Haliburton, Ontario resident set out from Newfoundland Jan. 17 with the goal of running all the way to British Columbia by September. Along the way he has been stopping at as many schools as possible to explain the benefits of a more active lifestyle.
Harris spoke to the EMC during a visit to St. John Elementary School in Perth Monday, May 16.
Harris has worked at an outdoor education centre in Haliburton for the past nine years. “I basically have seen first hand the benefits of kids getting outside,” he said. His primary message is the importance of finding a balance between time spent in front of a TV or computer screen, and time spent outside being active. Although playing computer games and using the internet can be educational, he said, students in their teens are spending six to seven hours a day in front of screens.
For the first time in history, according to recent news reports, today’s generation of Canadian children have a shorter predicted lifespan than their parents. One of the main reasons for this, said Harris, is that new technology “more or less keeps us inside.”
A runner for the past 17 years, Harris has gone from competing in half marathons (somewhere between 15 and 20 of them) to running up to a full marathon (42 km) each day. He spent about a year training to run longer distances, overcame some injuries early in the process, and learned to slow down his pace. He now takes about five hours to do the full marathon distance. “The body is quite a resilient thing,” he said. “It’s amazing what it can do.”
Harris said he has been using those hours spent on the road to think about the best ways to convince parents, educators and individuals that “it’s crucial” for everyone to spend more time outdoors. “It really is fundamental to our health to spend that time outside,” he added.
Harris’s cross-Canada run is a true “grass roots initiative” being undertaken with the support of partner organizations Kid Active and the Child and Nature Alliance. The Lanark, Leeds Grenville Health Unit helped to arrange his visits to Perth and Smiths Falls schools this week.
Harris noted that “there are some real doom and gloom statistics” in the non-profit organization Active Healthy Kids Canada’s current report card on physical activity among children and youth. The report for 2011 says that only seven per cent of Canadian children and youth are meeting the new Canadian physical activity guidelines of at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Harris said this breaks down to nine per cent of boys and four per cent of girls, “which is astoundingly low.” The report card also found that Canadian children were getting six hours of “screen time” on weekdays and more than seven hours on weekends.
On a more positive note, Harris said he and Sarah Powell, who is accompanying him on his journey, are finding that there is a lot of concern and awareness about the issue.
“I feel encouraged that it’s going in the right direction,” he said.
Original article pulled from the Perth EMC