21 December 2015

Children's report reveals slump in physical activity

The number of Western Australian children meeting recommended levels of physical activity has dropped to its lowest level since measurements began being reported almost a decade ago.

The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend children between the ages of five and 17 years get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.

But the latest Health and Wellbeing of Children in Western Australia 2014 (PDF 1MB) report shows that just 40 per cent of children aged 5 to 15 years were sufficiently active to achieve good health.

The report also found that more than a third (34.8 per cent) of children were spending an unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen – with two to five year olds the most likely (64 per cent) to exceed their recommended screen time limit of one hour a day.

Professor Karen Edmond, paediatrician and consultant to the Department of Health’s Child and Adolescent Health Service described the latest findings as concerning saying a sedentary lifestyle increased a person’s risk of becoming overweight or obese and of developing chronic health conditions later in life.

“Physical activity is not only essential for healthy growth and development but also plays an important role in mental wellbeing,” Professor Edmond said.

“Parents need to be encouraging children to turn off their devices and be active because habits established early in life are more likely to carry through into adulthood.”

The report is produced from the Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System, a continuous survey that monitors the health status of the Western Australian population.

This latest report is based on the answers of almost 700 parents and carers of children up to the age of 15, who were interviewed over the telephone between January and December of 2014.

The survey also found that:

  • more than 88 per cent of children up to the age of 15 were perceived by their parent/carer respondent to have been in good or excellent health
  • the prevalence of children who never ate from fast food outlets was 25 per cent, up from 16 per cent in 2002
  • only 58 per cent of children were always checked for adequate sunscreen before going into the sun – the lowest recorded since 2007
  • the prevalence of children living in a smoke-free home had grown to 98.9 per cent, from 90.5 per cent in 2002.


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