NZ kids rate as very physically active

18 November 2016
Young boy walking on a wharf

New Zealand kids rate as the second most physically active kids in the world, according to the latest global physical activity report released today.

University of Auckland researchers assessed and reported on data for the New Zealand Physical Activity Report Card for Children and Youth, as part of the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance.

The Alliance organized the concurrent preparation of Report Cards on the physical activity of children and youth in 38 countries from six continents (representing 60 percent of the world’s population).

This is the second time these child and youth physical activity indicators have been compared to seek solutions to increase childhood physical activity globally.

One of the lead researchers for the NZ Report Card, Associate Professor Melody Smith from the University of Auckland’s School of Nursing, says nine common indicators were used.

These were; Overall Physical Activity, Organized Sport Participation, Active Play, Active Transportation, Sedentary Behaviour, Family and Peers, School, Community and the Built Environment, and Government Strategies and Investments.

All Report Cards were generated through a harmonized development process and a standardized grading framework (from A = excellent, to F = failing).

New Zealand’s physical activity guidelines for children and youth state that children and youth (aged 5 to 18 years) should accumulate 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) daily.

The guidelines also recommend that children and youth spend less than two hours per day (out of school time) in front of television, computers, and gaming consoles, and that they should be active in as many ways as possible.

“Using nationally representative data, around two thirds of children and young people are considered sufficiently active for health, but there is a substantial age-related decline in this prevalence,” says Dr Smith.

For overall physical activity, the grade range was A- for five to nine year olds, B- for 10 to 14 year olds, and C- for 15 to 18 year olds.

The grade for physical activity decreased slightly from the 2014 report card, but there was an improvement in grades for built and school environments.

For the Sedentary Behaviour indicator that scored a C on the report card, the multiple measures of screen time across several studies showed that an average of 49 percent of children and youth met the recommendation of watching less than two hours of screen time daily (with a range of 17 percent to 96 percent).

Sedentary behaviour among different age groups scored a C for five to nine years, a D for 10 to 14 years and a D+ for 15 to 18 years.

“There is room for improvement across the indicators, especially Active Transportation, which was graded C-, says Dr Smith.

“Overall about 41 percent of children and young people actively transport to school, with younger children less likely to get to school actively than their older peers.”

For the Active Play indicator, New Zealand kids scored an overall B- with less than 10 percent of young people spending no time participating in sport or recreation activities when “mucking around”.

Most children (78 percent of boys and 82 percent of girls), reported taking part in active games or play at least ‘once this year’.

The time spent in active play decreased from 140 minutes per day for five to nine year olds to 87 minutes per day for 10 to 14 year olds, and 29 minutes per day for 15 to 19 year olds.

The full NZ results were;

  • Overall Physical Activity B-
  • Organized Sport Participation C+
  • Active Play B-
  • Active Transportation C
  • Sedentary Behaviours C
  • Family and Peers C
  • School Environment C+
  • Community and Environment B
  • Government Strategies and Investments B-

The 38 Report Cards were presented at the International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health in Bangkok, Thailand this week with the New Zealand data presented by programme leader, Professor Ralph Maddison from the University’s National Institute for Health Innovation.  

Click here for the full NZ Report Cards on Physical Activity.

Click here for the international Active Healthy Kids Alliance global score cards and rankings.