4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/07/2013   
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The National Physical Activity Recommendations for children cover two components, physical activity and screen-based activity. This topic focuses on the collection of physical activity data.

The current National Physical Activity Recommendations for 0-5 year olds recommend at least three hours of physical activity every day, either in a single block or spread throughout the day. For this survey, 5 year olds are not included with the 2-4 year olds.

To assess against this recommendation for this 2-4 years age group, this topic covers the following components of physical activity:

  • outdoor active play or other physical activity which may include throwing a ball, walking, running around, free play in playgrounds or sandpits, helping in the garden, swimming, riding a tricycle or bicycle, or any other outdoor activity that involves movement
  • indoor physical activity or active play which may include dancing, jumping, 'rough and tumble', tidying up, helping to set the table, or any other indoor activity that involves movement.

As per the national recommendations for this age group, physical activity does not need to be of a particular intensity and includes anything that involves movement.


Information was collected for selected children aged 2 to 4 years in the NNPAS.


The collection methodology of this module relied on the recall of an adult proxy on behalf of their selected child, and did not make use of a diary or other form of recording activities.

To assess against the National Physical Activity Recommendations, respondents were asked a series of questions about the physical activity their child had undertaken in the last week. Due to the difficulty of calculating the amount of time a young child is physically active in a week, as well as the requirement to measure against recommendations that are based on meeting daily targets, questions were asked for each day in the seven days prior to interview. It was suggested to proxies that they may find it easier to think of what they themselves were doing on each day (for example, at work, doing gardening or chores, visiting friends, etc.) and during those times what arrangements were made for the child or what the child was doing.

For each day respondents were asked about the total time spent (hours and minutes) doing the following activities:
  • outdoor active play or other physical activity
  • indoor active play or other physical activity.

This information was used to calculate whether a child met the physical activity recommendation by summing outdoor and indoor physical activity undertaken on each day. A child was considered to have met the physical activity recommendation for a given day if their activity totalled 180 minutes or more.

Data Items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • The collection of this information involved respondent recall and is "as reported" by respondents. It therefore reflects the respondent's perception of activities undertaken.
  • Accuracy of responses may vary with the proximity of the reporting day to the interview day. However, analysis of data for 2-4 year olds by order of days reported indicated that there is no significant difference between the days for physical activity reported.
  • Accuracy of responses may vary depending on proxy’s awareness of a child’s activities when they were not present (for example, activities during the day for a child in child care).
  • There has been an increasing emphasis on the importance of physical activity for children in recent years. This may have introduced bias with the reporting of socially desirable responses in some instances.

Comparability with other surveys

The questions comprising this topic have not previously been collected in an ABS survey.

Due to the difficulties with collection of physical activity information for this age group, there is minimal other sources of data available on this topic. The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children has collected a small amount of data related to indoor and outdoor play. However this data is not considered comparable to the AHS.

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