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More kids trying sport, but activity levels still fall short

29 Apr 2018

More Australian children have participated in sport over the past 12 months, but the vast majority are still not meeting recommended activity levels - and parents could be the biggest influence in getting their kids more active.

These are some of the key findings of the Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) latest AusPlay research - Children’s Participation in Organised Physical Activity Outside of School Hours.

In an encouraging sign, participation for Australian kids aged under 15 is on the rise overall. A total 74 per cent of children participated at least once in organised sport or physical activity outside school hours in 2017, a jump of four per cent from the previous year. Only 25 per cent of Aussie kids are participating in these activities at least three times a week, although that too is up from 20 per cent in 2016.

ASC CEO Kate Palmer said: ‘It’s encouraging to see more kids sampling sport and physical activity, but the reality is fewer than 20 per cent are meeting daily recommendations for activity.

“Australia’s obesity crisis is well known, so sport and physical can play a role in helping address that. Sport and physical activity is also integral to the holistic development of children physically, mentally and socially.

“Every Australian child deserves the opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity so it’s important we continue to identify and reduce barriers.”

Peak participation for kids is between the ages of 9-11, but falls in the 12-14 age bracket. The top two barriers at this age, as cited by parents, is that kids don’t like physical activity (37 per cent) and it’s not a priority (18 per cent).

Cost can present a barrier to participation, with 84 per cent of children from high income families engaged in organised physical activity compared to 58 per cent from low income families. Children in major cities (76 per cent) are also more likely to participate than children from regional areas (69 per cent).

Palmer pointed out the influence parents can have on their child’s activity levels. While parents spend approximately $2.1 billion a year on children’s participation in sport and physical activity, spending time on their own activity could have a big impact. Figures show 75 per cent of children who have at least one active parent participate in sport and physical activity outside school hours, compared to 56 per cent of children with at least one inactive parent.

“Parents often sacrifice their own time for physical activity because they’re dedicated to the best interests of their kids, but this data clearly shows a child’s greatest sporting role model is often their mum or dad. A child with an active parent is much more likely to be active themselves. If a parent can find time for their own activity, they’ll be positively influencing their child’s activity levels too.

“Sport and physical activity is an extremely valuable investment in young lives.”

Swimming is the most popular sport for boys (29.8 per cent) and girls (33.9 per cent), while in team sports, football is most popular with boys (21.9 per cent) and netball for girls (13.3 per cent).

While this data focused on organised activity outside school hours, Palmer said the ASC would continue to work with sports and the education sector to re-emphasise sport in schools.

“The ASC has been able to positively contribute to activity during school hours by managing the national Sporting Schools program, which has funded more than 6,500 primary schools to sample from more than 30 sports since its inception in 2015.”

“It’s vital the sport sector works together to ensure fair access to physical activity for all Australians so that everyone can share in the enormous benefits it brings.”

The AusPlay survey commenced in 2015 and is the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind conducted in Australia.

Find the latest report Children’s Participation in Organised Physical Activity Outside of School Hours, below, or read more about AusPlay here

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