Children’s Physical Health
Roughly 4 out of 5 children in Australia do not get the recommended one hour of physical activity each day that they should be getting for optimal health (“Benefits of Physical Health,” 2017). Good habits can be formed at a young age and stick with an individual long into their adulthood. Whether it is by parents setting a positive example, staying active at school, or participating in a sport, children can learn while they are young about the importance of their physical health and the benefits that it can have on them throughout their lives. It is recommended in Australia that every single day children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity. By focusing in on the importance of physical activity for children, creating good habits, different ways to keep children active, as well as the long-term effects that good physical health can cause, people can get a greater understanding of physical health for children overall.
Children are faced with various challenges each and every day, in areas like school and friendships. The physical health of a child should not be something that they need to worry about on top of all of the other obstacles that they have to deal with. It is critical that parents focus on the importance of feeding their children foods that will fuel their bodies and help them to be more physically fit, as well as teaching their children about the benefits and importance of healthy, nutritious foods and how that relates to being physically well. Some of the important factors of physical activity and overall physical health in children are maintenance of a healthy weight, increased confidence and self-esteem, along with building strong bones and improved sleep patterns (“Children – Keeping Them Active,” 2015).
Children largely learn by example, from their parents, teachers, older siblings, as well as their friends. As the Better Health website explained, “Research shows that involvement in physical activity can increase a child’s participation,” also adding, “Set a good example for your child in the following ways: Modelling – show your child you regularly participate in physical activity yourself, help your child develop skills and strategies for coping with different physical activity environments, and also promote acceptance of different body shapes and ability levels” (“Children – Keeping Them Active,” 2015). Parents should try to get involved as much as they can with their child’s physical exercise, like kicking a ball around with them, going to a park, swimming, or bushwalking with them. By choosing to do activities as a family that are active and include exercise, no matter the level, it can help to start building those good habits in children. Teaching children can also be beneficial in creating healthy habits. If a child knows how to throw or kick a soccer ball, they will be more apt to go out by themselves and play, rather than if they are unsure. Another key area in creating good habits at a young age is to encourage the child to walk or ride their bike, rather than getting in the car and getting a ride to go places. By changing the small things, positive habits can start to be created and changes will be made.
Some may ask, what are some actions that parents can take to help their children improve their physical health? A few of the major areas that parents can focus on are splitting the physical activity into outdoor activities, indoor activities, as well as activities that children can do alone or in a group. Outdoor activities may include things like swimming, walking the dog, throwing a frisbee, or jumping on a trampoline. Activities that can be done indoors include dancing to your favorite music, creating a fun obstacle course or circuit with going up and down the stairs or jumping as high as you can a certain amount of times. Any movement is better than sedentary behaviour and children being fixated on a phone or television screen. As the Health Direct website stated in an article, “Children should also limit the amount of time they spend sitting, and those aged over 5 should spend no more than 2 hours a day in front of a screen. This recommendation drops to 1 hour for children aged 2 to 5, with no screen time at all recommended for children under 2” (“Benefits of Physical Activity,” 2017). Children between the ages of 5 and 12 should have a minimal amount of time being sedentary throughout each day. This can be done by limiting electronic usage, as well as break up the amount of time spent sitting throughout each day as much as possible (“Australia’s Physical Activity,” 2014). Adding more physical exercise into a child’s day can be done quite easily, just by picking activities that the child enjoys, having variety with the activities, having rewards for your child that are active and involve movement rather than screen time or dessert, as well as having the entire family be involved in the physical activity.
There are many benefits that come along with children having sound physical health that can influence them in the long run. Some of these effects can include improved cardiovascular fitness, like the heart and lungs, as well as improved balance and posture (“Children – Keeping Them Active,” 2015). Creating good healthy habits when a child is young can dramatically help them to grow into confident teens, and further adults. In addition, by children being physically active, it can help them to maintain a healthy weight and actually reduce stress in their everyday lives. For children that do not get enough physical activity, as explained on the Healthy Kids website, “In the long-term, it can contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and liver disease” (“Get Active Each Day,” n.d.). Along with that, there is an increased risk of obesity and being overweight, which can lead to many other harmful health concerns, like asthma. (“Get Active Each Day,” n.d.).
Creating habits that children can learn and maintain throughout their teens and then into their adulthood can be substantially beneficial. There needs to be an increase in the amount of children that get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether that is done at home with their parents’ guidance, throughout their school day, or with their friends. Implementing a variety of activities that children actually enjoy throughout their days in order to stay active can be vastly important. Focusing on the importance of children’s physical health, how to create healthy habits in children, actual ways to help children add physical activity into their days, as well as the long-term benefits of children having good physical health are each essential in understanding and improving the physical health of children all around Australia.
Written by Callie Schapekahm
- Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines For Children (5-12 years). (2014, February 07). Retrieved from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/fs-5-12years
- Benefits of Physical Activity For Children. (2017, December). Retrieved from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/benefits-of-physical-activity-for-children
- Children – Keeping Them Active. (2015, June). Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/children-keeping-them-active
- Get Active Each Day. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au/kids-teens/get-active-each-day
- Image: Start Active, Stay Active. (2016, March 18). Retrieved from https://qorf.org.au/start-active-stay-active/