A recently released report from experts and researchers in Australian universities has given Australia a “D Minus” for kids physical activity.
The lowly rating is influenced by numerous factors including not getting recommended levels of daily activity, and too much ‘screen time’. So, while to many it’s not new news, what can we do about it?
Kids need to spend more time outdoors. That message comes through loud and clear in the Report, and is something that we have been advocating for some time now.
Why is this important?
The report, endorsed by the Heart Foundation states that:
Daily physical activity is vital for all Australian children and young people. The Australian physical activity guidelines provide clear recommendations for the minimum amount of physical activity required by children and young people to experience health benefits. Children and young people who accumulate the minimum amount of physical activity every day are at a lower risk of conditions including overweight or obesity, Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other comorbidities, are more likely to see improvements in their aerobic fitness and bone health and experience positive mental health benefits. Despite these obvious health benefits, only 19% of Australian children and young people, aged 5-17 years meet the physical activity recommendations.
What are the recommended guidelines?
The national physical activity recommendations for children 0-5 years state that:
- Toddlers (1 to 3 years) and pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years) should be physically active every day for at least three hours, spread throughout the day (read more).
For children aged 5-12 years:
- For health benefits, children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. Children’s physical activity should include a variety of aerobic activities, including some vigorous intensity activity (read more).
Parks can help – so use them!
Parks can provide endless opportunities to help you in improving the lives of your child and meeting recommended physical activity guidelines. Here are just some handy ideas of what you can do in a park that will help:
- Walk, play: many of us live near to a local park, and some are lucky enough to live near major urban parks like Centennial Parklands. These parks and open spaces are there to use, they are there to explore, they are there to exercise and recreate in. Why not walk to the park (if you can), then take a vigorous walk around the park. To keep your child engaged in the activity, carry a ball with you or play some exploration games. In Centennial Parklands, if you complete one lap of Grand Drive alone, you’ve almost completed your daily recommended limit in one go!
- Ride a bike: many parks have paths and cycle tracks. Pack the bike or ride to the park and go for a cycle. Cycling is a good cardiovascular workout and is vigorous enough to contribute towards achieving the recommended health guidelines. In Centennial Park, we have the Children’s Learners Cycleway for the youngsters, or Grand Drive has a dedicated cycle lane. If you don’t own a bike, we even have a bike hire in the Park.
- Organised sport: there are over 600,000 registered sports users playing more than 35 different sports in Centennial Parklands. Now, while the recent report warns against falling into the trap of believing ‘registering a child for organised sport is enough’, it is still an important part of the weekly mix that can help achieve both a health and a social benefit for your child.
Want even more ideas? Try this handy fact sheet from the Healthy Kids website.
Get outdoors. Get active. Start today.