Athletes call for kids to be more active to reduce childhood obesity

PETER ROLFE, THE HERALD SUN

Quarter of all Australian children are overweight or obese and that figure could reach 33 per cent by 2025 unless kids get more active.

A group of sporting ambassadors will today urge Aussies to get moving after it emerged 81 per cent of children aged five to 17 don’t meet recommended physical education guidelines.

Essendon captain Dyson Heppell, Australia’s most capped female cricketer Alex Blackwell, soccer star Kyah Simon and Paralympian Danni Di Toro will lead a push to improve participation.

Australia’s most capped female cricketer Alex Blackwell. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

The elite quartet has teamed with the inaugural Prime Minister’s Sporting Oration in Melbourne later this month, to encourage business leaders to fund grassroots programs.

It comes amid shock findings that 66 per cent of Aussie adults are overweight or obese, with 67 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women set to lose the battle of the bulge by 2025.

Women’s sporting participation is half that of men in Victoria, with just 21 per cent of males and 11 per cent of females getting enough exercise.

Former Aussie cricket captain Blackwell said that was simply unacceptable and change was urgently needed.

“Right now our children are not physically active enough,” she said.

“This will be the first generation that will be literally slower than their parents, not being able to run as fast and will have a lower life expectancy.”

Research to be presented at the oration by former PM Julia Gillard on November 21 shows physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of chronic health problems in Australia.

Without intervention, it is believed Australia could face $88 billion in extra health costs over the next decade.

“We are heading in the wrong direction at the moment so we need to take significant action to change those stats around,” Blackwell said.

Without intervention, it is believed Australia could face $88 billion in extra health costs over the next decade. Picture: Getty Images

On a positive note, a 76 per cent increase in girls and women’s teams was recorded since the launch of AFLW.

Gymnastics is also booming. Lifestyle for Kids in Williamstown teaches dance and gym to 1300 children from the age of two, with one of its elite teams last month winning the state pennant.

Owner Tracy O’Hare said: “Our kids gain confidence, make new friendships and have much better body awareness and strength.”

The four ambassadors will push for greater results in female sport, physical activity, leadership and decision making, diversity and inclusion.

More than 500 industry leaders at the oration at the Melbourne Convention Centre will be urged to raise funds for Australian Sports Commission-led participation programs.

NewsDavid Turner