Australian parents need to relax their guard, allow their children to play outdoors and enjoy all the benefits that physical activity brings, the National Heart Foundation said today.
National Heart Foundation physical activity spokesperson, Trevor Shilton, says parents need to strike a balance between appropriate parental care and supervision and a child’s natural desire to play, to explore and be physically active.
“While a parents desire to love and protect their child is natural, the reality is that it has become too easy to molly coddle children to the point of being detrimental to their physical and social well-being,” Prof Shilton says.
“Kids have an innate, in-built need to be physically active, and we should be doing all that we can as parents to facilitate active play time when and where possible.
“At present, a staggering eight out of ten Aussie children fail to meet the minimum national standard of at least 60 minutes physical activity per day.
“When we consider the amount of time they spend watching TV or playing computer games it is little wonder they’re so physically inactive.”
In turn, this sets children up to live their lives under the shadow of chronic health conditions like heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, he says.
“We owe it to the health of present and future generations that we take steps now to remedy this epidemic of inactivity among young Australians.”
Prof Shilton says a review of literature by the University of British Columbia on the perils of over-protective parenting found that children encouraged to play and explore had increased physical activity levels, improved social skills and did better at school.
“This isn’t rocket science and yet we have increasingly strayed from what is essentially a common sense approach to parenting,” he says.
“We need to have enough faith and trust in our children’s best interests to allow them to engage in the type of healthy, vigorous play time that kids of yesteryear, including ourselves, regularly did.
“Whether this involves kicking a footy, climbing a tree or playing tag in a local park, taking the dog for a regular walk or hitting a cricket ball over the neighbour’s fence, these are all healthy forms of physical activity that we should be encouraging.”
He says practical, achievable initiatives to encourage Australians to become more active are a focus of the Heart Foundation’s advocacy for a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Action Plan.
“We need to get all Australians moving more and sitting less, sooner rather than later – and there is no better place to start than with our kids.”