As a child, I was not the kid you would put on a poster advertising exercise. I was always the last selected for team games, breathless after the warmup lap of the school oval, and I burned within a minute of being out in the sun. Don’t get me wrong, I always had the desire to be doing something, but no matter what activity it was I always had one question.
“What is the point of this?”
My experience is just one of many, but it is a part of a worrying trend that is growing around Australia.
- Only 1/3 of children reach the recommended guideline of 1 hour of physical activity per day
- Over 2/3 of children engage in greater than 2 hours of screen time per day
- Screen-based activity use increases as physical activity decreases in children up to 17 years.
I hear you all asking now, “Why is that important? They’re just kids.”
Yes, they are “just kids”, and it is for that fact alone that exercise is extremely important. There are a variety of health benefits that are relevant to children more so than adults, and that is because children are constantly growing. When you hit adulthood and old age, things tend to just start going downhill. The bones and tendons that have been growing stop growing like they used to, muscles start degrading and your brain tends not to function like it used to. The best cure is prevention, and at the moment, an active lifestyle as a child is one of the best preventive mechanisms we have.
So how do we get them to participate?
I can guarantee it is not to get a slightly overweight pale child to run laps in the blistering sun. I didn’t know back then how important it was to exercise, and unless things have drastically change, I don’t think today’s children know it either. But I do know this: when I eventually found the right kind of activity, I didn’t care about all the previous bad experiences, I just couldn’t get enough of it.
They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and this could not be more true with regard to children and exercise, or really children and any form of activity. It’s just up to us to help children explore and find what form of exercise works for them. Maybe then we can change this pattern of inactivity and have healthier, happier children.
Darcie Rehbein is part of our Sports Scientists and Product team. Currently, a second-year clinical exercise physiology student at Queensland University of Technology. Darcie has swimming and AFL sporting background. She is interested in injury prevention and rehabilitation.