23 May, 2014 Last updated: 30 Mar, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

Letter to the editor was published in the Bendigo Advertiser on 22 May 2014.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

A report released this week revealed a shocking fact: Australian children now rank among the least active in the world.

VicHealth is extremely concerned the majority of children (80%) don’t get the hour of exercise crucial for good health every day. And only one in five walk or cycle to school. 

In the 1960s, one in 20 children were obese. Today it’s one in four. By 2025, it’s projected to be one in three. Imagine the implications for the quality of life of our next generation if we allow these trends to continue.

A huge contributor to inactive children is worry from parents about the dangers of the outside world. VicHealth is working with the Parenting Research Centre on the biggest-ever survey about ‘cotton-wool kids’ to discover what drives this fear and how to combat it. The results will be released in September, ahead of our statewide Walk to School month in October.

We believe that granting children independence to walk to school and explore their neighbourhoods is a critical part of the solution to childhood obesity.

Walking reduces body fat, improves fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers later in life. It also helps to develop motor and coping skills, healthy self-esteem and social skills in children.

As well as the fear of stranger danger, technology, longer working hours of parents, more traffic, less open space, busier lives and our over-reliance on cars are just some of the reasons children are less active.

If we can help parents to find strategies to beat these issues and work together to create neighbourhoods that actively encourage children to play and walk, we can begin to turn this problem around.

- Jerril