Does organised sport give kids the exercise they need?

Politicians and sports organisations are constantly beating the drum about their investment in sport facilities so that more children can participate in organised sport and physical activities.

This, we are assured, will result in more children getting the exercise they need to be healthy.

But according to a recent research project, organised sport does not give our young people the exercise they need, far from it.

This is why getting the kids out of the car and onto bikes for transport to school and other activities is so important to the health of families.

Sport alone won’t do the job.

Rice University in Houston, Texas, was researching children who, although schooled at home, were participating in a full range of organised sport at weekends and during the week.

They expected to find that, although home schooling removed the opportunity for active travel to school, participation in organised sports physical activities would keep them fit.

The data, however, proved them wrong.

Laura Kabiri, a sports medicine lecturer at Rice, said the problem lies in how much activity is part of organised regimens.

"We assumed—and I think parents largely do as well—that children enrolled in an organised sport or physical activity are getting the activity they need to maintain good body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular development," Kabiri said.

"We found that is not the case. Just checking the box and enrolling them in an activity doesn't necessarily mean they're meeting the requirements they need to stay healthy.”

Kabiri said the researchers suspect the same is true for public school students in general physical education classes, where much of the time is spent getting the class organized. "When you only have 50 minutes, it's very easy for half that time or more to go to getting them in, out and on-task," she said.

According to the World Health Organisation, children should get about an hour of primarily aerobic activity a day, but other studies have noted children involved in non-elite sports actually get only 20 to 30 minutes of the moderate to vigorous exercise they require during practice.

Australia's own Physical Activity Guidelines also say that those aged between 5 and 17 years old need at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day to maintain health.

The authors of the study concluded parents would be wise to give their children more time for unstructured physical activity every day.

"Parents know if they attend activities and don't see their kids breathing and sweating hard, then they're not getting enough exercise," Kabiri said.

"So there should be more opportunities for unstructured activity. Get your kids outside and let them run around and play with the neighbourhood kids and ride their bikes."

The perfect way to start – National Ride2School Day

National Ride2School Day is next week on Friday 22 March and it is the perfect way to introduce children to regular bike riding.

National Ride2School Day is full of fun and colour and is a chance for every student to discover and celebrate the joy of riding.

It can also help students develop teamwork and leadership, with those who ride every day able to help their friends who might ride for the first time.

Participation is free and schools can register now to receive a pack that includes posters, stickers and promotional and planning material to help create a memorable day for students.

Click here to read more about National Ride2School Day

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