With school officially out and summer holiday freedom stretching for several weeks ahead, the lure of screen time for kids is especially strong. However, low physical activity for extended periods can wreak havoc on children’s health and wellbeing. The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is urging parents to ensure that while their children are on holidays, their physical activity levels don’t also go on a break.
Regular physical activity across all age groups is important for long term physical and mental wellbeing. However, more children are ditching active leisure activities in favour of hours spent in front of a screen. Latest research highlights a staggering four out of 5 children between the ages of five and 17 are not meeting the minimum recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day1.
With the lack of organised school and sport routines during the summer holidays it can be extra difficult to ensure children remain active. A study published last year in the UK found that children were significantly less fit by the end of the summer holidays, with kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds faring the worst.
APA paediatric physiotherapist Nicole Pates says “We are aware many kids and teens will have sedentary screen time over the summer, and for those who do, it’s really important to balance that out with physical activity. The key is to incorporate simple and fun activities to make them appealing.”
Some of the tips Nicole suggests are:
- Incorporating fun physical activities into family outings, such as throwing a frisbee, going for a nature or bush walk or even flying a kite
- Exposing your child to lots of different types of sport and active leisure activities
- Walking instead of driving for short journeys
- Setting a good example for your children by being physically active yourself.
“The most important thing a parent can do is to be active themselves. Parent role modelling of physical activity is one of the strongest indicators for children being active. In other words, kids who see their parents prioritising their physical and mental health are more likely to adopt this way of life also, and it really lays the groundwork for them to remain active throughout their lives.”
“The good news is that cardiorespiratory fitness can be improved in as little as six weeks, so the summer holidays are an ideal time to set the tone for the whole year ahead.”
Nicole Pates is available for further comment or interview.
1 Vic Health Physical Activity Strategy, 2018-2023. Accessed from https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/publications/physical-activity-strategy
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