Global report outlines urgent need for increased physical activity in Aussie children

Launching today at the Movement to Move Event in Adelaide, the third Active Health Kids Australia (AHKA) Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People has seen Australia once again assigned a failing grade (D−) for Overall Physical Activity Levels, showing no improvement from the previous reports in 2016 and 2014.

With the global report indicating that over 80% of 12–17 year olds are not accumulating at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is reminding parents, coaches, teachers, friends and family of children that encouraging any form of physical activity is vitally urgent for the health of Australian children and young adults.

“Physical inactivity levels in children has reached a critical level. Many children around the world, including in Australia, are not moving enough to maintain healthy growth and development,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

With the Report providing a national snap shot of the current levels of physical activity in Australian children and young people, 2018’s report benchmarked Australia against 49 countries which left us tied at 32nd place out of 49 countries for our Overall Physical Activity grade.

“We live in a beautiful country that loves sport. In fact, Australian children were graded a B− for participation in organised sport and physical activity and a B for participation in physical activity at school. We need to continue encouraging, supporting and facilitating opportunities for Australian children and to engage in more physical activity every day.”

The theme of this year's Report Card highlights the seemingly forgotten component of our national physical activity guidelines – that children should engage in muscle and bone strengthening activities for a range of physical and mental health benefits.

The Australian guidelines indicate that children should engage in activities that strengthen muscle and bone on at least three days per week, however the AKHA data shows that only 13% of 15–17 year olds are meeting this guideline.

“Muscular fitness is important to children and young adults as it’s associated with improved bone health, self-esteem and perceived sport competence; lower levels of fatness, cardiovascular disease and metabolic risk; and lower risk of premature death,” explains Ms Hobson-Powell.

The problem may lie in that we typically associate muscular fitness with going to the gym and lifting weights. The truth is that muscle and bone strengthening in children can look like activities and games such as:
tug-of-war or hopscotch
body weight exercises such as squats and push-ups
rope, tree or rock climbing
running or sports such as gymnastics, basketball, volleyball and tennis
and even playground fun such as swinging or hanging from equipment.

Although it may be as simple as running around at lunch time and on weekends for most children, the needs of those living with chronic conditions and disabilities should not be ignored.

Exercise Right for Kids was developed to help inform parents, coaches, teachers, friends and family of children who may be living with, or at risk of, a chronic condition to exercise safely for a healthier life.

“Children should not be held back from being physically active because of any condition, disability or injury. In fact, exercise can play an important role in helping them manage their quality of life and help ease or treat their condition.”

Each condition comes with individual traits and complexities, hence the importance for children to exercise right for who they are. It is crucial for families to get in touch with their local Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can provide expert care and exercise prescription for their child’s condition and physical activity needs.

To find out more about Exercise Right for Kids, visit the Exercise Right website.

To contact your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist, visit the ESSA website.

To read the 2018 AKHA Report Card in full, click here.