Great Health Guide


Reduce scheduling & prioritise play time for children

- Jane Kilkenny

Physical activity in primary school aged children from 5-12 years is declining. This is a major cause for alarm. Obesity levels in children are increasing. Academic performanc­e is decreasing. Current data concludes that 1 in 4 Australian children are overweight or obese. How are these key factors related?

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that 80% of children aged 5-17 years do not meet the recommenda­tions for daily physical activity. These are alarming numbers for the future health of Australian­s. Whilst many may consider this a big picture problem that requires policy changes, the truth is we can all help to solve this problem.

There is significan­t science to confirm that physical activity improves physical, cognitive, social and emotional developmen­t of children. There are also strong links to suggest that physical activity improves academic performanc­e.


While there are many influences on a child’s developmen­t, the most important guidance in the early years, is parental. Once they reach school age, the circle of influence broadens but the habits developed at home will still prevail. The key habits of physical activity and healthy eating go hand in hand to maximize future health. We can create the foundation­s of physical activity in primary school.


Have you stopped to consider why we feel so busy all the time? Busy is the number one reason that our physical activity levels across all ages are declining.


Parents want the best for their children, but it is often difficult to prioritise time. In the primary school years, it is essential to prioritise play time for kids. There are so many organised activity opportunit­ies but sometimes we forget about just running around the park, taking the dog for a walk, riding a bike or going to the pool for fun. These are the stress relievers and fun activities that kids can enjoy with parents and friends. They also provide a relaxing environmen­t that promotes communicat­ion. Kids love to chat, with each other and parents when given the opportunit­y. As parents we can never be too busy to listen.


Before school, it’s about hurry-up, eat your breakfast, get dressed, pack your bag and off to school. The school day is busy, there’s lots to learn. After school it’s

Are we too busy to be healthy?

off to practice and when you get home it’s time for homework and preparing dinner. Probably some TV or other screen time. Then it’s off to bed. No wonder kids and parents are stressed!

In the primary years of 5-12, if we can make some simple changes to reduce scheduling and increase time to be activity free, we can improve the future health for our kids. Let’s not burden them with too many time-demands, being a kid is about having fun. We want them to enjoy running, swimming, jumping, throwing and just being active! If we can instill a love of physical activity in this age group, we will have a better chance of enhancing their future health with less stress and better communicat­ion skills.

It might take some juggling at the start to factor in the family physical activity but once it becomes part of the routine, it will be something you all look forward to sharing together. Family memories are also made from moments like these.

Reduce scheduling & prioritise play time for kids.

Jane Kilkenny has over 25 years’ experience in health and fitness. She specialise­s in exercise for kids and teenagers having trained at the Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine (CHISM) Westmead in 2004. She is also a High-Performanc­e specialist and a Level 4 IAAF athletics coach. Jane can be contacted via her website.

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