BLOG: Do our kids have all the tools?
1st Dec 16
by Dr Natasha Schranz and Charlotte Vincent, Active Healthy Kids Australia
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 in spite of the ever-growing sedentary demands of our lifestyle?
On November 16th, 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. The Report Card (which can be accessed from the AHKA website) results indicated that two years on, the story is much the same with, a grade of D- again assigned for both Overall Physical Activity and for Sedentary Behaviours. We 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 Report Card does however show that as a nation we are lucky to be well equipped with physical activity facilities, supports and infrastructure within the home, school and community environments but it seems our kids just aren’t using them.
Image: Front Cover of the AHKA 2016 Physical Activity Report Card
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. Alarmingly Australia is sitting at the back of the pack in grades for physical activity and sedentary behaviours and when we take a step back and try to learn lessons from countries such as Slovenia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe who all grade well for physical activity participation, we see 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? On November 28th, AHKA hosted the inaugural forum ‘A Time to Move’, at which we explored the question: Do our kids have all the tools they need to be active for life? The tools we were referring to were the tools of Physical Literacy, which encompass the physical, cognitive, affective and social capabilities (or tools) a child needs to be active now and in the future.
In a room filled with professionals and academics from a broad cross section of Government, Education, Industry and Academia from around the country, robust discussions were ignited with regard to the definition and terminology of ‘Physical Literacy’. These diverse and dynamic perspectives and conversations will continue to progress as we work towards a united solution to address this very serious problem we face as a nation. One key message however to come out of these discussions was that as we move forward we cannot be consumed by what terminology we use but rather our focus needs to be directed towards how we develop the tools children need.
There is no one solution to this problem and it requires the involvement of parents, schools, communities, local, state/territory and federal governments; teachers who are equipped with the support they need to facilitate a broad range of physical activity experiences for young people; the right resources in the home and in the school; and dynamic physical environments that inspire creativity and imagination. But in order for us all to play our part, we need a culture shift that sees physical activity being prioritised every day, and it should not be viewed as something we feel like we should do, rather it should be viewed as something we all want and choose to do for fun, enjoyment, and better health and wellbeing.
Leading this conversation is Dr Natasha Schranz, Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA) Co-Chair and Research Fellow from The University of South Australia and the lead investigator behind the AHKA Report Cards. Dr Schranz is passionate about the work she does for AHKA and feels it's important to highlight the facts and stats about Aussie kids doing less physical activity than they ever have before. She says “The results from the AHKA Physical Activity Report Cards can, and should start a national conversation about how physical activity can become the norm, not the exception”.
Working alongside Dr Schranz, Charlotte Vincent assists with the business administration for Active Healthy Kids Australia. Charlotte shares the passion of AHKA in the ultimate quest to find effective and innovative ways to improve physical activity levels of Australian Kids. “It is critical that we address the barriers that are preventing today’s kids from being more physically active in all areas of their daily life.”