‘Truly disturbing’ threat to kids’ heart health: World Heart Day


toddler girl plays with tablet

On World Heart Day, the Heart Foundation has revealed Aussie kids are choosing to spend “truly disturbing” amounts of time sitting and staring at various electronic gadgets, instead of being physically active.

Based on the latest Australian Health Survey findings, the Heart Foundation’s analysis found that children aged five to 17 years are spending at least one hour and 20 minutes watching TV/DVDs and 20 minutes playing electronic games each day.

National Heart Foundation CEO, Mary Barry, says eight out of 10 Australian children fail to meet minimum national guidelines of at least 60 minutes physical activity per day.

“When we consider the sheer amount of time kids spend seated watching TV, playing computer games or staring at various other electronic gadgets, it’s little wonder they’re so physically inactive,” Barry says.

“In turn, this sets our children up to live their lives under the shadow of chronic health conditions like heart disease, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

“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.”

The Heart Foundation’s analysis also found:

  • Boys are spending much more time playing electronic games than girls (33 minutes per day compared to 8 minutes);
  • Children who are obese/overweight are spending more time watching TV/DVDs or playing electronic games, than children of normal weight range (122 minutes per day compared to 98 minutes);
  • Children are spending four times more on the computer/internet for non-school rather than homework purposes (25 minutes per day compared to 6 minutes); and
  • For those children who meet the minimum national physical activity guidelines, there is a marked reduction in the amount of time they spend watching TV/DVDs or use the computer/internet for non-school purposes (91 minutes per day compared to 161 minutes).

 

Barry says children have an innate, in-built need to be physically active, and as a nation we need to do more to encourage and facilitate active play time, when and where possible.

“We need to do much more to encourage our children to turn off the TV, put down their phones and tablets and engage in healthy, vigorous physical activity,” she says.

“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.”

Barry says practical, achievable initiatives to encourage Australians to become more active are the focus of the Heart Foundation’s ‘Move More, Sit Less’ campaign.

“This includes the development of a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Action Plan to encourage Australians to move more and sit less.”

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