Joe Milton is an evolutionary biologist who, after studying the evolution of plants for ten years at various Scottish universities, made a move into journalism. Since then he has written for the Financial Times, Nature and New Scientist, among others. Joe joined the London Science Media Centre in 2010, where he was Senior Press Officer for Mental Health, before taking up the position of Senior Media Officer at the Australian Science Media Centre in July 2012.
Why This Matters: This should act as a wake up call.
The research looked at the physical activity of children aged between 11 and 17 from 146 countries to determine how many meet the minimum daily recommendation of an hour of activity.
Australia performed dismally, ranking 140th, and the researchers found activity levels among Aussie teens have not improved since 2001.
Telford says the findings ring true as they’re consistent with other studies, including his own recent work which “clearly identified physical inactivity as the most significant characteristic of overweight and obese children”.
“Compared to 30 years ago, our children do not have the same level of fundamental movement skill competency, fitness and strength. If children are unable to perform skills well … or do not have the required strength, then they are more likely to have low self-esteem and not want to participate in sport.”
UWA’s Rebecca Braham says Aussie teens may be developing bad habits that will follow them into adulthood: “The best predictors of level of physical activity in adulthood, is activity in adolescents,” she says.
“Teens that are physically active have better cardiovascular fitness, stronger bones and muscles, better posture, and less depression and anxiety,” she says.
Maher says Aussie teens are not alone in shirking sport: “The majority of teens around the world aren’t getting enough physical activity – 81 per cent were categorised as insufficiently active.”
However, “we were the lowest-ranked of all of the ‘western’ countries that we would usually compare ourselves to, and consider ourselves similar to,” she adds.
So what are kids doing these days instead of running around outside? Edith Cowan’s Ken Nosaka points to computer games as one culprit, while Mizrahi highlights “the rise in technology use (phones, apps, gaming consoles)” coupled with a reduction in “bike riding, walking to school and playing during school lunch-times”.
Maher says the study should act as a wake-up call for Aussies.
“Australians tend to have an image of being beach-loving, fit and healthy, but these results show it’s not the reality,” she says.
You can read the full AusSMC Expert Reaction here.