Active participation can offset health problems

Did you know an average child in 2015 would finish 250m behind the average child from the 1980’s over a 1.6km run? That’s almost half a lap of an Olympic size running track - quite a staggering, unpalatable statistic.

This is just one of many statistics to emerge from a range of studies which found Australians are becoming fatter and unhealthier. Currently, some 10 million Australians lead sedentary or low-exercise lifestyles.

There are many reasons for this. More kids and adults opt for screen time over active outdoor leisure activities; we are working longer hours and are time poor; sport is no longer a key part of the school curriculum; and some areas of Australia are without adequate facilities and equipment.

As we become less active, the nation’s levels of obesity are steadily rising to alarming levels.

A recent study conducted by the Collective For Action On Obesity, revealed that national obesity rate has more than doubled from 2.7 million to 5.8 million over the past 10 years with an estimated 900,000 Australians joining the obesity ranks since 2014-2015.

Almost one-third of adults are now obese, and one-quarter of children are obese or overweight.

More than one in 10 in the 16-17-year bracket are obese, taking a toll on their physical, neurological and psychological development.

The report highlighted obese children and teenagers were five times more likely to be obese as adults and are more vulnerable to health complications and chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea.

Australian Bureau of Statistics projections reveal 40 per cent of Australians (8.9 million) will be obese within the next decade.

Obesity costs the economy $11.8 billion ($5.4 billion in direct health costs and $6.4 billion in indirect costs) in 2017-18, and if the trend of growing inactivity is not halted, taxpayers face $88 billion in additional health and social costs over the next 10 years.

Sports participation, particularly by school children, can help reverse this trend. Children who participate in physical activity are more likely to continue in active recreation as adults.

And there are many studies that have shown that children who participate in sports and recreation activities are physically and intellectually more advanced than those who do not participate.

A Griffith University study found active kids have more active brains. The study revealed children are more physically capable, their gross motor skills are significantly advanced, and they perform better in literacy and numeracy.

“The enduring physical and intellectual health of our nation commences with children, and that is why new need to ensure they have the facilities and equipment to pursue active and enjoyable lifestyles,” said Australian Sports Foundation Chief Executive, Patrick Walker.

NewsDavid Turner