Australian pre-teens sedentary, new study finds

Tuesday, 09 July, 2019

Australian pre-teens sedentary, new study finds

A snapshot of Australian 11- and 12-year-olds has found that it is not unusual for them to spend up to 11 hours a day seated. By comparison, their parents spend nine hours sitting still.

This is according to new research conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, conducted jointly with the University of South Australia.

The Child Health CheckPoint study examined physical activity and sedentary behaviour of 1261 children aged 11–12 and 1358 of their parents over one week. 

Professor Timothy Olds of University of South Australia’s Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA) said the results, published in BMJ Open, show that Australian children have high levels of sitting and only modest levels of physical activity.

“Previous Australian research found high levels of sedentary time tended to comprise about 40% screen time and 25% sitting at school, with the rest taken up with sedentary social occasions, eating and passive transport,” Prof Olds said.

“Hours spent watching TV use may be a marker of general household dysfunction, poor routines and less emphasis on health. The more hours of TV, the worse outcomes across the board — from blood pressure to academics and quality of life,” he said.

According to the Australian Government’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, children aged five to 12 years should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily, while those aged over 18 years are advised to do a minimum 30 minutes at least five times a week. The guidelines also encourage people to break up long periods of sitting and to limit screen time for children in this age group to no more than two hours a day.

Other key CheckPoint findings include:

  • The children of overweight parents are not destined to inherit their parents’ weight problems.
  • Pre-teens and middle-aged adults are usually getting the recommended amount of sleep but they aren’t always sleeping soundly.
  • Big snacking parents may inadvertently influence their children to eat more.
  • A parent’s lung and bone health all have an impact on their child by the age of 11 or 12.

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