Sit less, move more, and make being active fun for kids!

We all know there is a strong argument for getting kids involved in sport. But how much is healthy? Are Australian children active enough? And how can we as a School and parents support this?

To help answer these questions, we recently welcomed Warrick Pearson, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and Lead Clinician and Director of My Physio, to talk about kids and sport at Kilvington’s Parent Education Program (PEP) talk.

Warrick immediately reinforced the benefits for kids to participate in sport (or be active) with a long list including increased strength, social and leadership skills, self-esteem and body image and skeletal and neuromuscular development.

Being active reduces the risk of obesity as well as stress, depression and anxiety which is important considering a quarter of adolescents report they are unhappy. A 2016 systematic review of 45 studies indicated 31 showed a positive correlation between academic performance in children and physical fitness*.

However – currently our kids are not active enough

• An alarming 80 per cent of children worldwide have lower than the recommended activity levels.
• In Australia, we are starting to lose the sporting edge we are known for with our kids having poorer basic ball skills than the majority of nations.
• We also have high adolescent dropout rates including half of girls quitting sport by age 13, and half of boys stopping sport at 15. This is concerning because at these ages physical activity is still fundamental to teenagers’ skeletal development.

What are the recommended levels of activity?

• Growing children should participate in muscle and bone strengthening activities at least three times per week.
• Children and teenagers should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every single day.

Only 6 per cent of 15 – 17-year-olds meet these guidelines. We’ve got some work to do.

Before you sign your kids up for the local netball or footy team it is important to know that Warrick’s advice is that formal sport activities are not the only answer.

Achieving 60 minutes of physical activity per day does not need to be a formal game of basketball. In fact, teenagers will stick with it if it involves informal exercise (for example, adolescent girls are far more likely to keep active with activities such as walking or going to the gym).

As a rule, all activities should make you breath faster and feel warmer. For longevity, Warrick’s message was keep it fun including:

• Ride or walk to school through active transport
• Focus on enjoyment/interests, sporting or otherwise. Don’t ask “did you win?” instead ask “did you have a good time?”
• Walk the dog and play ball in the park
• Gym/weight training
• Unstructured play
• Go swimming or take bush walks
• Help with chores around the house (might not be fun, but could be rewarded!)
• Limit screen time to two hours per day
• Do activities together, dance in the kitchen, act as an active role model.

For those who do have a passion for sport, Warrick encouraged to keep it going! However, be wary of playing just one sport. Try to also include other activities into your child’s schedule to reduce the risk of injury.

*Published in Scand J Med Sports 2016