Catch them young

HEALTHY FOR LIFE Kids should be encouraged to play   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: C. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Physically active kids enjoy better health

Children with access to physical activity are more likely to lead healthier lifestyles, says a new finding. The ‘Vertical Living Kids' study, led by Carolyn Whitzman, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne, determined the quantum of walking and cycling among children living in city high rises.

“The more the children establish a pattern of being active to get around when they are young, the more the chances they will set up healthy patterns for life,” said Victorian Health Promotion Foundation chief executive officer Todd Harper.

“We need to make sure that we encourage children to get out of their armchairs and car seats and on to their bikes or own feet to avoid preventable diseases such as heart disease and cancer later in life,” Harper said.

“Being able to go to school, friends' houses, parks and shops on their own is vital to kids' physical and emotional development, their sense of citizenship — of being a valued part of a community and being physically active in day-to-day activities,” Harper added.

Whitzman said: “Almost two-thirds of the journeys taken by children living in public high rise housing were on their own or with other children, compared to less than one in five journeys of children living in private high rises.

“But most of those journeys by kids in public housing were within their immediate community, and they were unhappy with local playgrounds.”

Conversely, “the kids in privately-owned high rise housing used public transport more often and frequented a greater variety of destinations both within and beyond their local communities”, Whitzman added.

In total, 290 trips over four days were monitored. Forty children and their parents — 18 in public housing and 22 in privately owned properties — participated in the project.