Leon Straker, Erin Kaye Howie, Dylan Paul Cliff, Melanie T. Davern, Lina Engelen, Sjaan R. Gomersall, Jenny Ziviani, Natasha K. Schranz, Tim Olds and Grant Ryan Tomkinson
Australia has joined a growing number of nations that have evaluated the physical activity and sedentary behavior status of their children. Australia received a “D minus” in the first Active Healthy Kids Australia Physical Activity Report Card.
An expert subgroup of the Australian Report Card Research Working Group iteratively reviewed available evidence to answer 3 questions: (a) What are the main sedentary behaviors of children? (b) What are the potential mechanisms for sedentary behavior to impact child health and development? and (c) What are the effects of different types of sedentary behaviors on child health and development?
Neither sedentary time nor screen time is a homogeneous activity likely to result in homogenous effects. There are several mechanisms by which various sedentary behaviors may positively or negatively affect cardiometabolic, neuromusculoskeletal, and psychosocial health, though the strength of evidence varies. National surveillance systems and mechanistic, longitudinal, and experimental studies are needed for Australia and other nations to improve their grade.
Despite limitations, available evidence is sufficiently convincing that the total exposure and pattern of exposure to sedentary behaviors are critical to the healthy growth, development, and wellbeing of children. Nations therefore need strategies to address these common behaviors.
Natasha Schranz, Tim Olds, Dylan Cliff, Melanie Davern, Lina Engelen, Billie Giles-Corti, Sjaan Gomersall, Louise Hardy, Kylie Hesketh, Andrew Hills, David Lubans, Doune Macdonald, Rona Macniven, Philip Morgan, Tony Okely, Anne-Maree Parish, Ron Plotnikoff, Trevor Shilton, Leon Straker, Anna Timperio, Stewart Trost, Stewart Vella, Jenny Ziviani and Grant Tomkinson
Like many other countries, Australia is facing an inactivity epidemic. The purpose of the Australian 2014 Physical Activity Report Card initiative was to assess the behaviors, settings, and sources of influences and strategies and investments associated with the physical activity levels of Australian children and youth.
A Research Working Group (RWG) drawn from experts around Australia collaborated to determine key indicators, assess available datasets, and the metrics which should be used to inform grades for each indicator and factors to consider when weighting the data. The RWG then met to evaluate the synthesized data to assign a grade to each indicator.
Overall Physical Activity Levels were assigned a grade of D-. Other physical activity behaviors were also graded as less than average (D to D-), while Organized Sport and Physical Activity Participation was assigned a grade of B-. The nation performed better for settings and sources of influence and Government Strategies and Investments (A- to a C). Four incompletes were assigned due to a lack of representative quality data.
Evidence suggests that physical activity levels of Australian children remain very low, despite moderately supportive social, environmental and regulatory environments. There are clear gaps in the research which need to be filled and consistent data collection methods need to be put into place.