Do our kids have all the tools to be healthy and ac­tive?

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr Natasha Schranz

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

AHKA web­site.

The 2016 AHKA Re­port Card was also pre­pared to co­in­cide with the sec­ond Ac­tive Healthy Kids Global Al­liance (­tive­healthykids.

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


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,


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.

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