A sharp drop in children’s bike sales in the past decade has Australia’s leading health experts gravely concerned about the lack of physical activity of children and young people.
In the past 10 years, children’s bike sales have dropped by 110,000 units – from 492,000 to 382,000 – prompting concerns about the long term impact physical inactivity has on health and well-being.
More than 30 health experts met at a roundtable event on Tuesday 30 August 2017, hosted by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration and the Heart Foundation, to discuss a national approach to active travel to and from school for all children.
Endorsed by over 70 leading chronic disease experts and organisations, active travel is one of 10 priority policy actions identified in Getting Australia’s Health on Track, a suite of policies launched in Canberra last year.
Director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University, Rosemary Calder, said 71 per cent of children and 92 per cent of those aged between 12 and 17 do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity in Australia.
Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for chronic diseases such as cancer, mental health and cardiovascular disease.
“A coordinated approach to active travel to and from school will give 3.7 million school children access to healthy physical activity every day,” Professor Calder said.
“Despite Australia’s image as a sporting, outdoor and leisure-loving nation, almost three million children and young people are not doing enough physical activity.”
VicHealth Principal Advisor, Dr Lyn Roberts, said Australian children are some of the most “chauffeured” in the world.
“Two-thirds of five-year-olds and more than half of nine-year-olds are being driven to school every day,” she said. “We need a national approach to promoting active travel to and from school so that children have the opportunity to be physically active every day.”
National Heart Foundation chief executive, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said a recent health survey found only seven per cent of children did the recommended one hour per day of exercise – meaning an estimated 600,000 children do not.
“It is vital we encourage daily physical activity for all our children and the daily trip to school is one of the best value investments we can make for their future health,” Professor Kelly said.