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It is more important than ever that we encourage children and adolescents to spend time outdoors by creating safe and supportive places and spaces for them to be more active.
Children and adolescents are spending less time outdoors, have less freedom to walk or cycle to destinations, and are becoming increasingly inactive — a situation often associated with increased screen use. This corresponds
with concerning rates of overweight and obesity in Australian children, with physical activity levels decreasing significantly as children get older.
How active do children need to be?
Recommended physical activity guidelines for each age group.
How active are they?
What percentage of children in each age group meet the recommended guidelines?
The number of children who walk to school or the local park or shops is also declining.
Gone are the days when most children roam freely in the suburbs, play ball on the street, and populate parks after school; deserted neighbourhoods are more the norm in many of today’s modern westernised cities4.
Physical activity occurs in many places, both indoors and out: at home, at school and in community recreation centres; at sports fields, parks and play spaces; at the beach, along the river and in our forests.
Being active outdoors offers immense physical and mental benefits from early childhood development through to adolescence and into our adult lives.
Children who spend more time outdoors tend to have better levels of fitness, and improved muscle, bone, joint, heart and lung health. Research has also linked time spent outdoors with decreased likelihood of overweight and obesity in adolescence.
Outdoor play and activity habits learned while young are more likely to be maintained, decreasing the risk of chronic illness in later life5.
Children who play in natural outdoor spaces have better physical ability, balance, and coordination. Activities such as running, climbing, balancing, and catching help develop important movement skills6.
Outdoor activity with friends and family can help to build social confidence and provides opportunities to improve cooperation, team work, leadership and communication skills7.
Outdoor activity in natural environments can improve emotional wellbeing and reduce anxiety and depression8. Children who are active outdoors are more likely to have better self-esteem and are less likely to be socially isolated9.
Outdoor activity can assist academic development through improving attention, focus and concentration in the classroom10. Time spent in natural outdoor places encourages problem solving, lateral thinking, leadership, and a curious
and creative imagination11.
Through outdoor activity, children learn to identify and manage risks. Lack of exposure to risk in childhood can hamper development of resilience, self-confidence, independence, and judgement skills. Lack of challenging activities can
foster frustration, leading to unwanted risk-taking behaviours12.
Unstructured outdoor play can assist children to understand and express emotions, and develop flexibility, self-confidence, and self-awareness. Empathy and sharing with others are traits learned in early childhood through social experiences13.
Outdoor play is an important arena for the development of language, comprehension and vocabulary, and the practice of social skills, particularly cooperation and problem solving14.
Development of physical activity and motor skills in childhood decreases the risk of injuries as children get older15.
Independent activity for primary school children in outdoor environments can lead to improved self-belief and self-awareness16.
Going to public places such as parks and outdoor spaces away from home and the school environment enables adolescents to learn to navigate their neighbourhood and become independently mobile17.
Going to places outside of home and school is important for social interaction and development of personal identity and social support networks. Places that foster a sense of belonging, and encourage participation in adventurous and challenging
outdoor experiences, are often sought by young people.
To make the most of the many benefits gained through spending time outdoors, children and adolescents need to be proactively encouraged to get outside.
Many of the benefits of outdoor activity evolve as children get older, as they become more able to access different environments and be more independent.
The outdoor places where children and adolescents spend time need to be designed to make it easy to be active and for everybody to move about safely within their local neighbourhood.
Enabling children and adolescents to walk or cycle to local parks and community places can help form patterns of physical activity and provide opportunities for older children to develop independence and confidence.
Be a good role model to your children and get active with them.
You don’t have to travel far to be active outdoors.
For more information or to obtain copies of other publications contact:
Advocacy Project OfficerDepartment of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries246 Vincent Street, Leederville WA 6007PO Box 8349 Perth Business Centre WA 6849Telephone 61 8 6552 7300Email the Advocacy Project Officer
Do not submit enquiries with this form.