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Physical activity and children A Statement of Importance and Call to Action from the Heart Foundation

Written by Trevor Shilton and Geraldine Naughton, National Physical Activity Program Committee, National Heart Foundation of Australia, April 2001.

Statement of Importance

Physical activity provides health benefits for children

Physical activity provides broader community benefits

Engaging children and young people in enjoyable and positive physical activity may also make a contribution to broader social and community goals including:

Early prevention is important

How much physical activity is recommended?

The challenge of growing sedentariness

Australian children are exposed to a growing range of sedentary alternatives to physical activities. These include:

All of these can compete with time for spontaneous or planned physical activity.

Physical activity data for Australian children are not systematically collected at a national level. However, the high prevalence of insufficient physical activity in adults (43%), coupled with high rates of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents aged 10–17 years (21% for boys and 23% for girls), gives rise to major concern.

A responsibility for everyone

Our children must be the focus of renewed efforts to increase population levels of physical activity, and in helping prevent the alarming rise in overweight and obesity evident in Australian adults. While parents and schools have a special role, this is a responsibility that can be shared by the entire community.


A Call to Action

A responsibility we share

All members of the Australian community can take greater responsibility for increasing levels of physical activity in our children. The following lists opportunities and challenges for different individuals, sectors and groups (Government and non-Government) to take increased responsibility for this major community issue. It provides direction to a series of actions that may positively impact upon the physical activity levels of children.

What can all parents do?

Australian research shows an overwhelming majority of parents are supportive of their children’s participation in physical activity. They think it is important and acknowledge that they have an important influence on activity levels in their children.

Parents can:

What can all schools do?

What can Local Governments do?

Local Governments are important gate-keepers in providing opportunities for young people to be active. They contribute a significant amount of money to sport, recreation and the broader physical environment of their community.

What can planners do?

Urban planners and planning professionals have a special responsibility in designing communities and neighbourhoods where physical activity options and choices are easy choices.

What can transport agencies do?

What can community sport and recreation organisations do?

Community-based sport and recreation clubs play an important role in providing long-term, regular opportunities for participation in a wide variety of physical activities in a social and context.

What can health professionals do?

There is a range of other organisations that can contribute to the important community responsibility of encouraging and supporting children to be active.

Some of these are listed below:

April 2001