University of Lethbridge researchers engaging children as part of national physical literacy assessment

Two University of Lethbridge kinesiology researchers will be assessing the physical literacy of 1,300 local children over the next two years as part of the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy (CAPL).

Drs. Jennifer Copeland and Luc Martin are co-investigators in the CAPL study for the Lethbridge area.

“We are one of seven universities across Canada that are participating in this nationwide study,” says Martin.

A total of 8,000 children across Canada will be assessed during the study. Physical literacy is defined as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, and knowledge and understanding that individuals develop in order to maintain physical activity at an appropriate level throughout their life.

The Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy requires basic equipment like soccer balls and Hula Hoops.

“The point of the study is to collect physical literacy data on eight- to 12-year-olds across Canada and then use that information to help us understand things like physical inactivity and childhood obesity, and to compare scores with other countries,” says Copeland. “It’s a new tool that we believe will be valuable for teachers, parents and educators, with the ultimate goal of making a more physically active nation.”

“Not only can we compare the Canadian physical literacy scores with other countries’ scores, but we can also compare within Canada,” says Martin. “It will be interesting to see if we have differences across provinces.”

The data may be included in the Active Healthy Kids Canada report card for 2015 and 2016 and may be used to guide curriculum, make policy changes, or develop intervention strategies.

The physical literacy assessment measures motivation, knowledge and understanding, and confidence through questionnaires. Physical competence is assessed through an obstacle course and by measuring height, weight, grip strength, flexibility, aerobic fitness and motor skills. The children are also given pedometers to wear for a week to measure their physical activity.

Copeland and Martin piloted the CAPL study with about 100 children who attended sport and recreation camps on campus this summer.

“All the kids who did it seemed to have a great time,” says Martin. “They had fun and they were interested. They did enjoy wearing the pedometers.”

The Holy Spirit Catholic and Lethbridge public school divisions have given approval for the researchers to approach schools about taking part in the study and Copeland and Martin plan to do so now that school is back in session. They are also looking at local children’s organizations and whether they would be interested in participating.

“We have everything,” says Martin. “We have the equipment, we have the staff. We just come in and do it all so people don’t have to worry about training someone.”

The assessment can be easily implemented because it uses basic equipment like Hula Hoops and soccer balls and a manual is available online.

Anyone interested in participating is invited to send an email to

The CAPL study is being co-ordinated by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute, with ParticipACTION as a leading partner and funding through the RBC Learn to Play project.