We’re all concerned about the lack of activity among teens today. Community leaders and health experts worry that the newest generation of young people seem more comfortable on the couch than they are outdoors.

But Coca-Cola Canada is taking major steps to change that. Thanks to a partnership with ParticipACTION, Canada’s national voice of physical activity and sports participation, Coca-Cola is helping teens (and adults) get serious about playing.

Finding a Place for Play

Like so many other countries, Canada has found that teens aren’t breaking a sweat nearly as often as their parents’ generation did. Not only has there been a decrease in physical activity in general, but the amount of time devoted to active play has declined as well.

That’s the inspiration behind ParticipACTION’s new campaign, “Bring Back Play.” The program is geared for young people, but the message is aimed at adults: Remember how much fun you had being active on your own? It’s time to pass that love of unstructured play on to your offspring.

“We want parents to know there is an easy way to fit more activity into their families’ lives without the expense of classes or having to drive to an activity,” explains Rachel Shantz, marketing manager for ParticipACTION. “Active play is an accessible, low-cost option for all.”

Partnering With Parents

To support the Bring Back Play campaign, ParticipACTION is holding their first annual Longest Day of Play, a community-based call to action to get families on fields and courts nationwide. On June 21, the day with the most daylight hours of the year, all Canadian families are encouraged to turn off their TV, shut down their laptop, and play outdoors for the sheer joy of it. (Follow ParticipACTION on Facebook or Twitter — @ParticipACTION — for updates and to hear what different families have planned.)

“The more people we have heading out to local parks and schoolyards that day, the more likely they are to do that on a regular basis, which is our ultimate goal—making play a daily part of life,” says Shantz.

Research strongly reinforces the health benefits of play. It builds healthy hearts, bones, and muscles, and it’s an awesome way to help teens get the 60 minutes of physical activity per day that guidelines recommend. Play has emotional and social benefits, too, like boosting self-confidence and teaching life skills such as sharing and conflict resolution.

“Playing expands their imaginations,” says Shantz. “It lets them test boundaries and try new things.”

For parents who want to play Capture the Flag or Foursquare with their offspring but need a refresher on the rules, ParticipACTION has also launched a web-based app with instructions on how to play those old school active games. It’s optimized for mobile use, which means parents can access the info while they’re already outside with their families. (To get the app, visit ParticipACTION.com or type URL Bringbackplay.ca into the browser of your mobile phone or tablet.)

A Commitment to Healthy, Active Living

That’s what Coca-Cola wants too. In 2008, Coca-Cola Canada made a five-year, $5 million commitment to ParticipACTION, then made a second pledge in 2012 for an additional five-year, $5 million. Every year since, this funding has helped promote the ParticipACTION Teen Challenge, a program that inspires Canadian teens in all 13 provinces and territories to get moving.

Coca-Cola is proud to be ParticipACTION’s largest private sector sponsor. Play, after all, is serious business.