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National Sports Convention hears about action to meet youth physical activity guidelines

National Sports Convention hears about action to meet youth physical activity guidelines
July 25, 2019

Presenting today at the 2019 National Sports Convention, and in response to the findings of the Global Matrix 3.0, Professor Mark Tremblay, President of the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA), proposed what Australia’s action priorities should be for improving youth physical activity.

The Global Matrix 3.0 report by AHKGA compared 49 countries from six continents to assess global trends in childhood physical activity in developed and developing nations, resulting in the “Global Matrix 3.0” comparison of grades.

The report showed that average grades for overall physical activity, active play sedentary behaviour and physical fitness around the world and in Australia are low/poor.

Australia received a D+ for Physical  fitness where the Global average was a C-. This compared to Australia’s B- for organised sport where the Global average was a C.

The report showed that children around the world are not moving enough to maintain healthy growth and development and revealed that modern lifestyles – increases in screen time, the growing urbanisation of communities and the rise in automation of previously manual tasks – are contributing to a pervasive public health problem that must be recognised as a global priority.

Professor Tremblay noted “global trends, including excessive screen time, are contributing to a generation of inactive children and putting them on a dangerous path. We have a collective responsibility to change this because inactive children are at risk for adverse physical, mental, social and cognitive health problems.

“This generation will face a range of challenges, including the impacts of climate change, increasing globalisation, and the consequences of rapid technological change. They will need to become habitually physically active in order to grow into healthy, resilient adults who can survive and thrive in a changing world.”

Professor Tremblay’s presentation at the National Sports Convention in Melbourne proposed that Australian families need access to practical advice, examples and opportunities that will support children to meet the 24-hour movement guidelines everyday.

Also recommended is National Funding for comprehensive school PA programs that would support:

• A national school physical activity policy that specifies that students need to be given the opportunity to engage in a minimum of 150 minutes per week of organised physical activity with physical education as a core component.
• Every primary and secondary school to have a tertiary qualified health and physical education teacher that delivers physical education classes to all students and supports classroom teaches to engage students in physical activity throughout the school day.
• Students to be provided with ample time and appealing spaces during recess and lunch to engage in free and active play.
• National funding for routine and regular surveillance of physical activity and fitness (eg aerobic and muscular) of all Australians, including consensus on measurement methods among states and their government departments.

Countries with the most active children and youth overall, including Slovenia, Zimbabwe and Japan. Each rely on very different approaches to get children moving but what is consistent among all of them is that physical activity is driven by pervasive cultural norms. Being active is not just a choice, but a way of life.

  • Slovenia obtained the best grades for Overall Physical Activity (A−), Family and Peers (B+), and Government (A), and received an overall average grade of B.
    • A notable feature in Slovenia is the importance of sport for the culture of this almost 30-year old country as “Slovenes tend to view sports as an effective tool in fostering national identity among citizens and making successful global identity claims.”
  • Zimbabwe reports above-average grades in Overall Physical Activity (C+) and Sedentary Behaviours (B).
    • Overall physical activity is mostly affected by active transportation which, for the majority of the children in Zimbabwe, is a necessity in everyday life.
  • Japan had the best grades for Active Transportation (A−) and Physical Fitness (A),and had no grades lower than C−.
    • Japan has a highly established “walking to school practice” that has been implemented since the School Education Act enforcement order, enacted in 1953. It states that public elementary schools should be located within no more than 4 km, and for public junior high schools no more than 6 km

Global Matrix 3.0 confirms there are challenges for children, communities and cultures around the world. Identified priorities for action include:

  • Creating a global movement for comprehensive school physical activity programs that support and allow ALL children and youth to meet the physical activity guidelines through a variety of strategic interventions (e.g., active recess options, physical activity breaks, compulsory physical education).
  • Creating a global culture of active kids / active people in all settings, prioritizing active transportation above other modes of transportation.
  • Investing in comprehensive social interventions and research to improve implementation and uptake strategies to manage recreational screen time among children and youth.
  • Developing a standardised global surveillance system of the physical activity and related indicators among children and youth to fill the current gaps, especially in low- and medium-income countries.

For more information go to www.activehealthykids.org

Image of Professor Tremblay’s presentation at the 2019 National Sports Convention

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