Aussie kids heading back to school is great, but will they be as active as they need to be?

Tuesday, 1st February 2022

Children have more of a chance to be physically active at school compared to at-home learning – climbing up and down stairs, P.E. classes, games at lunch, walking to and from school, the list goes on.

Now that Aussie kids are heading back to school, it’s important to recognise that even though they are more physically active, they still don’t get enough exercise from school activities alone and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) encourages parents to try and encourage exercise outside of school.

“It’s reassuring that children are encouraged to move when at school, however there is a difference between physical activity and exercise. Exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and purposeful movement that is intended to improve or maintain physical fitness and there is only a limited amount of time in a week that a school is able to include this in children’s education. Physical activity is movement that is carried out by the muscles that requires energy. In other words, any movement one does is actually physical activity and that is what our kids need more of!” explains Anita Hobson-Powell, CEO of ESSA.

“Participating in sporting teams, going on bicycle rides or bushwalks as a family, swimming at the beach, or even playing active video games are all ways to encourage children to move their growing bodies that little bit more in a day,” continues Anita.

“Each day research outlines the power of movement, not only on our overall health and well-being, but also on our children’s brainpower!”

Studies suggest that exercise can benefit children by boosting their vocabulary growth. Exercise is known to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and so it makes sense that "motor movement helps in encoding new words.⁠ ⁠

The research findings indicated that swimming had the greatest impact and researchers attribute this to the amount of energy each exercise demands of the brain. While some exercises require people to think about what they're doing, swimming is an activity that kids could complete without much thought or instruction.⁠

"Physical activity offers our children a wide range of important developmental benefits, and when adopted early in life, it also increases the chances of maintaining an active lifestyle into adulthood," Anita comments.

It is also important that children move when they’re young because active kids develop physical literacy, which is the knowledge and understanding of how to move your body, the confidence and motivation to move, and the social skills to be active with other people.

Engaging in physical activity as a child predicts participation in physical activity and exercise as an adult. This ensures the benefits of physical activity carry through from childhood to adulthood, reducing the risk of chronic disease, illness and injuries.

Conversely, those who do not participate in physical activity as a child are unlikely to be active as adolescents and adults; they are less competent, confident and motivated to move.

After many months of schooling from home, most parents and kids are eager to start the 2022 school year back in classrooms and we hope to see a lot of children celebrating on playgrounds and parks, and getting active.

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