Even for those kids who do play sport, it's not enough activity according to a national national report card on physical activity and children.
Australian school children rank among the worst in the world for overall physical activity levels, narrowly avoiding a FAIL in a new national report card.
The inaugural Active Healthy Kids Australia Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth has found 80% of 5-17 year olds are not meeting the Australian physical activity guidelines of at least 60 minutes of exercise each day.
Using an international ranking tool developed in Canada, Australia’s Report Card has been measured against 14 other countries around the world.
Report author Natasha Schranz, PhD from the University of South Australia said too many Australian parents believe playing sport is enough to keep their kids healthy.
“Australia is a sporting nation, and vast numbers of children are involved in some type of organised sport but this report clearly shows we need to be looking at further ways to keep kids active when they are not on the sports field,” Dr Schranz said.
“Things like walking to school, playing outside and turning off televisions and computers also contribute to overall health and physical activity levels – and these things are being forgotten.”
Among the 12 grades assigned in the Report Card, key ratings given to Australia include:
D - for Overall Physical Activity Levels
B - for Organised Sport and Physical Activity Participation
D for Active Transportation (such as riding or walking to school)
D - for Sedentary Behaviours (screen time).
Australia's highest rating was for the Community and Built Environment (A -) on the basis that 84% of parents said their children can easily access playgrounds and 75% said that traffic is not a problem near their children's school.
By contrast, New Zealand received an overall significantly higher rating in all but two areas - Community and Built Environment and Government Strategies and Investments. England was similar to Australia; Canada received an overall slighly lower rating; while the USA received an overall fail.
Associate Professor Trevor Shilton of the National Heart Foundation said the Australian evidence can’t be ignored.
“We’re raising a generation of couch potatoes and if we don’t start to reverse this trend this will drive up health problems in the future – obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease,” he said.
“We know what works. We need high quality, mandatory physical activity in our schools. We need to encourage and support our kids to stay active in everyday life – to be social and play outside, to walk and cycle in their neighbourhoods, do some household chores and limit hours of screen time.
“It requires a coordinated response – governments, communities, schools, families and individuals can all play a role, we just need to start the conversation.”
The Federal Government allocated $100 million over four years in last week's Federal Budget to a new Sporting Schools program, aimed to encourage more children to play sport before, during and after school with the support of national sporting organisations. Sporting Schools is expected to commence next year in more than 5,000 primary schools and reaching 850,000 children.