Getting the kids outdoors for active play – and encouraging teenagers to choose exercise over the iPad – is vital for improving the health of young Australians. A new national report card has suggested that most Australian children are not currently getting enough physical activity in their daily lives.
The Active Healthy Kids Australia Report Card was compiled by researchers from Australian universities and endorsed by The Heart Foundation. It found that 80 per cent of children between the ages of five and 17 were not meeting the recommended activity guidelines for their age.
Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining good overall health and wellbeing. Those who accumulate the minimum recommended amount of activity each day are at a lower risk being overweight or obese, and of developing conditions type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. They are also more likely to see improvements in their aerobic fitness and bone health, as well as experiencing positive mental health benefits
How much activity to young people need each day?
To meet the recommendations of the Australian Government’s physical activity guidelines, young people aged 5-17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis. However, the report card suggested that only 19% of Australians in this age group are doing this.
Here is a more detailed summary of the activity recommendations for each age group:
How to encourage young people to be more active
While organised sport can be a great way to encourage young people to be active, it’s not the only way to get in daily exercise.
"We need to remember that there are so many other domains of physical activity that kids might be missing out on," says Natasha Schranz, the lead author of the study. "So things like active play - getting out and kicking a ball against the wall or running around the playground with the dog, walking to and from different destinations including to and from school, as well as limiting screen time and sedentary behaviours."
Ms Schranz suggests that reducing time spent watching TV and using computers and electronic devices is also important. The report showed that 80 per cent of Australians aged between 12 and 17 look at screens more than the recommended limit of two hours per day.
"We can't just rely on parents to make sure they're not using too much technology. We need to make sure there's a national conversation around increasing physical activity in other areas," Ms Schranz says. "We need everyone to come together in a coordinated approach and talk about this issue."