AUSTRALIAN parents are raising a generation of couch potatoes, with Australian schoolchildren narrowly avoiding a fail in a report card on physical activity to be released today.
Four out of five kids aged 5 to 17 are not meeting Australian physical activity guidelines of at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, the Active Healthy Kids Report Card found.
This saw Aussie kids graded a D- score, below kids in New Zealand, England, Mexico, Finland and many other countries.
Heart Foundation active living spokesman Trevor Shilton said the results showed Australia was raising a “generation of couch potatoes’’.
“The results are quite confronting, there is not a lot of good news — and this has happened in a generation,’’ he said.
“It isn’t just a health issue, it’s a social issue when kids spend their day interacting with screens rather than interacting with others.
“In that time between finishing school and putting dinner on the table, a generation ago kids would throw a ball, go down the park or walk the dog, and now the things that compete for children’s time are sedentary — Facebook, television, computer.’’
Associate Professor Shilton said the findings showed the importance of parents putting in place strict rules around screen time, compulsory physical education in schools and neighbourhoods with quality public open space.
Report card author Natasha Schranz, from the University of South Australia, said parents wrongly believed that playing sport was enough to keep kids healthy.
“This report clearly shows we need to be looking at further ways to keep kids active when they are not on the sports field,’’ she said.
“Things like walking to school, playing outside and turning off televisions and computers also contribute to overall health and physical activity levels — and these things are being forgotten.’’
The report also saw Australian children given a B- for organised sport and physical activity, D for active transportation such as walking to school and a D- for sedentary behaviour such as screen time.
Paula Lazzarini said she was constantly encouraging Joseph, 10, and twins Nico and Siena, 9, to be active instead of in front of a screen.
“They walk to school a couple of days a week, do swim training, soccer, karate,’’ she said.
“We restrict their screen time, they can’t use it at the start of the week, have to have their homework finished and can only use it for up to 40 minutes at a time.’’