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Australia ranks 140th out of 146 countries

(no it’s not on PISA!)

I’m a proud Aussie. I love our lifestyle, our “can do” attitude and how we bat above our averages in many, many areas. For example, I am looking forward to the Olympics to see some awesome performances by some great aussie athletes. I am confident that we will achieve great results for a relatively small population. There is no way Australia will rank 140th on the medal tally.

However, Australia does rank 140th in another important measure.

Whilst I was presenting at a conference for NSW School Sport convenors, I was blown away by the statistic from the World Health Organisation that Australian teenagers rank with some of the least active teenagers in the world. 140th out of 146 countries.

Now if I was from Iceland and weather hampered my ability to be active I might understand but living in Australia? We surely don’t have any excuses.

Only 11% of aussie teenagers reported exercising for an hour per day, as stipulated by the WHO guidelines. The countries where students were most likely to meet the guidelines were Bangladesh (34% achieving the daily target), Slovakia (28.5%), Ireland (28%) and USA (28%).

Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman from the University of Sydney’s Sydney School of Public Health said, “It is important to not miss the wood for the trees,” he said. Although Australia’s ranking was bad, he stressed only one country had more than a third of adolescents meeting targets and only two in ten adolescents worldwide reported getting enough physical activity. Actually, the problem is a global one.”
The impact of exercise on both our physical and mental health is well documented.

The increased prevalence of mental health concerns and anxiety amongst students of all ages is concerning. Whilst I am loathe to expect schools to do more, this is such an important area, I think it is worth a rallying cry and investigation of what more can be done.

Australia’s Sport Participation Strategy – Play Well from the Australian Sports Commission endeavours to provide a pathway. In the introduction, the CEO Kieren Perkins OAM describes the Play Well Strategy as the collective effort of passionate people from across Australia who are all committed to creating a more active and healthier Australia through sport.

Whilst it is great to see this important issue being considered at a national level, the beautifully presented document is BIG on fluffy statements and good intentions it is light on in actionable steps that will have an impact.

I am hopeful that there is more specific detail to come that will lead to Australians of all ages becoming active.