ACTIVE HEALTHY KIDS AUSTRALIA
Do our kids have all the tools to be healthy and active?
IN today’s fast paced, time-poor, digital age, we find ourselves sitting still for longer than ever before. All this sitting and inactivity is problematic for the current and future health of children. Relative to inactive kids, active kids have better concentration, are more confident, have stronger muscles and bones, to name just a few of the health-related differences. So, how can we encourage and support our kids to be more physically active every day? Furthermore, how do we help them to achieve the recommended daily physical activity levels despite the ever-growing sedentary demands of our lifestyle?
On 16 November 2016, Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA), a collaboration of physical activity and health researchers from around the nation, released its second Report Card on Physical Activity of Children and Young People. Two years later the Report Card results indicated very little change with a grade of D minus again assigned for both ‘Overall Physical Activity’ and ‘Sedentary Behaviours’. Aussie kids also grade poorly for the traits linked with physical activity participation (i.e. ‘Physical Fitness’ and ‘Movement Skills’) and received a failing grade for ‘Government Strategies’ and ‘Investments’. The full and summary Report Cards can be accessed from the
The 2016 AHKA Report Card was also prepared to coincide with the second Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (www.activehealthykids.
org) ‘Global Matrix’, which includes 38 countries all reporting on the physical activity levels of their nation’s children. When compared to the rest of the world, Australia is above the global average in physical activity facilities, supports and infrastructure grades. However, the results show that access to these supports is inadequate to encourage children to move more and sit less.
In fact, Australia is alarmingly sitting at the back of the pack in grades for physical activity and sedentary behaviours. When we try to learn lessons from countries such as Slovenia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe who all grade well for overall physical activity and physical activity behaviours, we see that
DO OUR KIDS HAVE ALL THE TOOLS TO BE HEALTHY?
they rely on very different approaches to get kids moving. What is consistent across these countries is that physical activity is the cultural norm and not just a choice, but rather a way of life.
But why as a nation are we still failing when it comes to our kids moving more? Australia is lucky in having excellent physical activity facilities in both communities and in schools: we are well equipped with grassed playing fields, indoor and outdoor courts, swimming pools, an abundance of play areas and walk/ cycle-ways. But do our kids actually have all the tools they need to choose to engage with these facilities?
‘Physical Literacy’ encompasses the physical, cognitive, affective and social capabilities (or tools) a child needs to be active now and in the future. The ‘tools’ of ‘Physical Literacy’ include (but not limited to): a mastery of movement skills like catching,
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS NOT JUST A CHOICE, BUT RATHER A WAY OF LIFE.
throwing, jumping and riding a bike; an understanding of the benefits of being physically active and the confidence and motivation to enjoy and try new movements. To develop a child’s ‘toolkit’ they need to be given many opportunities to be active on a daily basis and these opportunities need to occur in various settings and with various people so that they learn to adapt and rise to meet new challenges.
Building ‘Physical Literacy’, like academic literacy, needs the involvement of parents, schools, communities, local, state/territory and federal governments. It needs teachers with appropriate training (experts in the design and delivery of physical activity experiences for young people); the right resources in the home and in the school (e.g. bicycles and balls) and the right physical environments (outdoor play spaces that take on many forms and inspire creativity and imagination).
But for us all to play our part, we need a culture shift that sees physical activity being prioritised every day. It should not be viewed as something we feel like we should do, rather it must be viewed as something we all want and choose to do for fun, enjoyment and better health and wellbeing.
Dr Natasha Schranz is a Research Fellow at the University of South Australia and CoChair from ‘Active Healthy Kids Australia’ (AHKA). The results from the AHKA Physical
Activity Report Cards will start a national conversation about how to improve the activity levels of Aussie kids.
Charlotte Vincent assists with the business administration for AHKA in the ultimate quest to find effective and innovative ways to improve physical activity levels of Australian Kids.