Around the nation, Australian children are gearing up to either start or return to school and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is encouraging parents to consider introducing positive exercise habits that will support their children throughout not only their school year, but their lifetime.
"As children start up school life once more, it's an excellent chance for them to participate in structured school physical activity, however, statistics show that this exercise is not reflected on the home front and our children are still not moving enough," says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.
"While over two-thirds of Australian children participate in organised out-of-school sport, fewer than 30% meet daily physical activity recommendations. Our children need to be more active for the sake of their own futures and parents are in a perfect position to encourage this healthy behaviour."
Research tells us that a child that has a parent who is active is over 200% more likely to be involved in organised physical activity. This directly indicates to us that parents have more influence than they realise.
Another study looked at the relation of device use and screen time of children to the activity levels of parents. The study concluded that more than 40% of the examined children led an inactive life, however, 100% of the children with semi-active parents had a moderate activity level and over 78% of the active parents had active children.
The main takeaway from this study is that active parents are more likely to have children who spend more time being physically active than in front of a screen. It also highlights the crucial role parents can play in encouraging exercise habits in their children.
"As our children walk through those school gates, as parents, we cannot assume that they will get all the physical activity that they require and it is up to us to get our children moving more," says Anita.
"Not only is regular exercise vital for children's sleep and preventing chronic disease, it brings a range of other benefits such as developing social skills and decision-making skills. Our children need to be moving more in order to be happy and healthy adults."
ESSA's top tips for parents to include more movement into daily life:
Organised sport – Encourage and develop your child's skills through an organised sport such as soccer, tennis or gymnastics. Contact your local sporting club to find out more about costs, timings and requirements.
Access local facilities – Many local councils have excellent lists of walking tracks, cycling routes, parks and recreation locations. Make the most of the free equipment and locations to keep your family active.
Plan ahead – Make a family planner that includes set 'activity' times e.g. family bike ride, park runs, nature walks. Planning will help the whole family set dedicated time aside to move.
Active transport – Active transport to and from school is an excellent way to introduce more activity in to both your own and your child's day. It's as simple as parking a little further from school and walking for pickups and drop offs.
Seek the advice of a professional – If your child is living with a chronic condition or a disability, then refer to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can assist in developing a physical activity plan to suit their individual needs.
You can find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist here: www.essa.org.au/find-aep