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As many as two-thirds of B.C. kids are going outside less than their parents did, survey suggests

Patrick Johnson, Postmedia Network

Thousands of kids head back to school Tuesday for the first day of classes. Among them will be Kaden Bond, 6, (middle) and Sebastian Berberich, 8, (right) who were playing soccer with Kaden's dad, Jody Bond (left), at Connaught Park in Vancouver, BC on Monday, September 7, 2009. (Photo by Jason Payne/ The Province)

Thousands of kids head back to school Tuesday for the first day of classes. Among them will be Kaden Bond, 6, (middle) and Sebastian Berberich, 8, (right) who were playing soccer with Kaden's dad, Jody Bond (left), at Connaught Park in Vancouver, BC on Monday, September 7, 2009. (Photo by Jason Payne/ The Province)

A new survey suggests B.C. kids are getting outside even less than their parents did.

According to a poll commissioned by TD Bank — called the TD Greensights Report and run by polling firm Environics — 63 per cent of B.C. parents say their kids get outside less than they did at the same age. More parents in Atlantic Canada (74 per cent) and Alberta (68 per cent) both reported their kids were spending even less time outside than those in B.C.

Nationally, 59 per cent of parents reported their kids were getting outside less than their parents did.

As part of the release of the survey's findings, TD also assembled a panel of people to share "insights about green spaces and key factors that need to be considered in order to create build heathy, vibrant and inclusive spaces for future generations of Canadian communities."

Unfortunately, the survey didn't get into why there's been a decline in time outdoors, but one panelist pointed to real public health concerns such a decline represents.

“Living in urban centres, it’s a question of what’s missing — and right now, what’s missing is a full sensory experience," Adam Bienenstock, a playground designer, said in a media release. "What’s missing from many people’s health and immune systems is all of those positive microbes, all of those bacteria, all those microbiota that make up their immune system. And you don’t get that unless you touch a biodiverse environment before you’re eight years old. We’re missing that in our cities. We forgot that and didn’t design for it.”

One in five parents said their kids were actually outside more than they did as kids.

The survey found that more than 60 per cent of Canadians visit community green space at least once a week, with "relaxing on my own," "connecting with nature" and "relax with family and friends" all being listed as reason for those visits by more than 40 per cent of respondents.

People suggested things like more picnic areas and playgrounds but just 39 per cent said they thought it was important to have Wi-Fi available in parks.

Nearly every respondent — 95 per cent — said access to green space will be important to their quality of life in the future. With that in mind 75 per cent said their local green space could use improvement; 80 per cent said government should lead the funding of these efforts.

Marc Cadotte, another panelist and a professor of urban forest conservation and biology at the University of Toronto, highlighted the importance of green space.

“The magic of green space is the simultaneous benefits that we derive living in cities,” he said. “Green spaces also provide fundamental services that improve the well-being and environment within cities; things like climate regulation, storm water management, supporting pollinators, sequestering carbon dioxide are all benefits we derive from parks and often don’t think about them in this way. Even when urban green spaces are not being used, we’re still deriving benefits from them. The simple existence of urban green spaces means we live a better, healthier life.”

There were 1,501 respondents from across Canada, to the online survey, 250 of whom were from B.C.

pjohnston@postmedia.com