4364.0.55.004 - Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-12  
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Contents >> Children and Young People >> 5-17 year olds


5–17 YEAR OLDS

Establishing a foundation of good active habits early in life can lead to ongoing healthy behaviours. Regular physical activity is recognised as playing a key role in reducing the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, as well as building a strong musculoskeletal system. In addition, physical activity may improve mental health and psycho-social wellbeing. Among children and adolescents, regular physical activity has been associated with improved school performance, a greater sense of personal responsibility and group participation. [1]

    Data source and definitions

    In the Australian Health Survey, physical activities for this group focused on a combination of moderate and vigorous activities, including active transport.

    Active transport included walking, biking, skateboarding, scootering or rollerblading to get to or from places. This also included active transport to get to or from a form of non-active transport, for example walking to the bus stop.

    Other moderate to vigorous physical activity included activities such as running around, school PE classes, skipping, rollerblading, dancing, and individual/ team sports.

    Each physical activity has a metabolic equivalent of task (MET) score associated with it, that is a measure of the energy cost of activities. A score of three METs is considered to meet the threshold for moderate to vigorous physical activity [2]. For more information see the Child Physical Activity (5 to 17 years) chapter of the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).

    Activities classed as organised were defined as activities organised by a club, association or any other type of organisation.

In 2011-12, children aged 5–17 years did an average of one and a half hours (91 minutes) of physical activity per day, with just over 60% averaging at least one hour per day. This contrasts with around one in five (19%) doing the recommended 60 minutes per day across all seven days prior to interview and almost half (48%) met the recommendation on at least five out of seven days.

Graph Image for Children 5-17 years - Average daily duration of physical activity(a)(b), 2011-12

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview (b) Proportions do not add to 100%, as includes children with time not known (c) Category 0-1 includes 1 minute to 59 minutes, 1-2 includes 1 hour to1 hour and 59 minutes, etc.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity



The average amount of time spent in sedentary screen–based activities for 5–17 year olds was over two and a quarter hours (136 minutes) per day, with just 6 minutes of this being for homework. Fewer than one in three in this age group (29%) met the "no more than 120 minutes of screen–based entertainment" per day threshold on all previous seven days, but 59% met the recommendation on at least five out of seven days. See Table 2: Summary activity indicators by age then sex, Children aged 5–17 years and Table 16: Number of days met physical and screen-based activity recommendations by sex and age, Children aged 2–17 years.

Graph Image for Children 5-17 years - Average daily duration of sedentary screen-based activity(a)(b), 2011-12

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview (b) Proportions do not add to 100%, as includes children with time not known (c) Category 0-1 includes 1 minute to 1 hour, 1-2 includes 1 hour and 1 minute to 2 hours, etc.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity



In general, physical activity decreased and screen-based activity increased as age increased. For example, while children aged 5–8 years did an average 2 hours of physical activity per day, the 15–17 year olds did half that amount (1 hour). Conversely, 15–17 year olds spent an average three hours per day engaged in screen-based leisure activity, compared to 98 minutes for the 5–8 year olds. See Tables 19: Average time spent on physical activity, Children aged 5-17 years: and Table 20: Average time spent on sedentary screen-based activity, Children aged 5–17 years.

Graph Image for Children 5-17 years - Average minutes per day spent in physical activity and sedentary screen-based activity(a), 2011-12

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity



In addition to the level of physical activity changing with age, so did the contribution of the types of activities. In younger age groups, the overwhelming majority of physical activity was moderate to vigorous. By age 15–17 years, as overall physical activity has declined, active transport such as walking and bike riding formed a more significant portion of young people's overall physical activity (39% for 15–17 year olds). See Table 2: Summary activity indicators by age then sex, Children aged 5–17 years.

While boys and girls in younger ages had similar levels of daily physical activity, by age 12–14 years females averaged 21 minutes less than males with virtually all of that difference coming from girls' reduction in moderate to vigorous activity. At 15–17 years, the gap was 17 minutes (in favour of males) with both sexes this age doing considerably less moderate to vigorous physical activity than the 12–14 years age group.

Graph Image for Children 5-17 years - Male average minutes per day spent in active transport and moderate to vigorous physical activity(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity

Graph Image for Children 5-17 years-Female average minutes per day spent in active transport and moderate to vigorous physical activity(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity

Overall, TV/DVD watching was the activity which occupied the most time of all screen–based sedentary activities, taking almost one and a half hours per day (84 minutes). While still accounting for the largest share of all screen-based activities at 15–17 years of age, the relative contribution of TV/DVD watching diminished as the time spent using a computer and playing electronic games increased. Females aged 15–17 years spent an extra 7 minutes on a computer than males that age (80 and 73 minutes respectively), but 15–17 year old males spent the longest total time in sedentary activities (3 hours, 15 minutes), due to the average 45 minutes spent per day playing computer games, compared with 5 minutes among the females that age.

Half of all 5–17 year olds (51%) had some kind of screen–based equipment in their bedrooms, with TVs (28%), computers (26%) and video game consoles (25%) all relatively common. The presence of screen-based equipment in bedrooms increased with age, with three–quarters (74%) of 15–17 year olds having a screen in their bedroom compared to 28% of 5–8 year olds.

Those children and young people who had at least one of these devices in their bedroom spent significantly more time in screen–based activities than those who did not have any screen–based equipment in their bedroom. For example, 15–17 year olds who had a screen-based item in their bedroom spent an extra two hours per week watching/playing screen–based entertainment compared with those who did not have any such item in their bedroom (22 compared to 20 hours per week).

Graph Image for Children aged 5-17 years - Male average minutes per day spent in sedentary screen-based activities, 2011-12(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity

Graph Image for Children 5-17 years - Female average minutes per day spent in sedentary screen-based activities(a), 2011-12

Footnote(s): (a) Average over 7 days prior to interview

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity

Endnote(s):

1 Bauman A, Bellew B, Vita P, Brown W, Owen N 2002. Getting Australia active: towards better practice for the promotion of physical activity, National Public Health Partnership, Melbourne, Australia.
2 Ainsworth AE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC, et al. 2000. "Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 32.9; SUPP/1: S498-S504.



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