Recently released research shows one in three Australian children are expected to be overweight or obese by 2025. Victoria Walks report Influencing Children’s Health: Critical Windows for Intervention looks at the key moments for developing healthy habits in children and adolescents.
The research suggests the change from primary to secondary school is a key transition period, where involvement in sport starts to decline, but children are generally afforded greater licence to move around in the community without their parents. Active travel - walking and cycling - then presents an opportunity to make up for the decline in sport.
The report author, Associate Professor Anna Timperio from Deakin University, says:
"As children move from primary to secondary school they’re less likely to be physically active during lunch and recess, outside school hours, and on weekends. Children spend a significant amount of their time at school, so school is an important setting in which to tackle declines in physical activity as they move from primary to secondary school. But there is also much to be done outside of schools. As children move into adolescence, opportunities for active transport through walking, riding, or skating to school, to public transport and other places increases."
The report recommends that the education sector, schools and teachers promote active travel to and from school from early primary years and reinforce over the primary–secondary school transition.
It also confirms the importance of making streets and communities more walkable, in order to facilitate walking by children and young people. It recommends that policy-makers, local government and urban planners "consider children in urban planning and community design to facilitate active travel."