Whilst the Knox Total Fitness Action model describes it’s ‘Physical Fitness’ pillar as supporting students to develop healthy habits and goals, there are several constructs that sit under this pillar; habits and goals, sleep, nutrition, and exercise. This article plays specific focus to the construct of exercise.
The benefits of physical activity and exercise for children and adolescents are well-documented. Engaging in physical activity can improve physical fitness, bone health, and cardiometabolic health, such as blood pressure levels (World Health Organisation, 2022). However, beyond physical health improvements, exercise has been shown to enhance self-esteem, mood, social interaction, focus, attention, and reduce anxiety (Rees & Sabia, 2010; Rodriguez-Ayllon et al., 2019).
It can be helpful for families to reflect on levels of engagement in sedentary behaviour, defined as activities that do not substantially increase energy expenditure above the resting level (Pate et al., 2008). This may include activities such as sleeping, sitting, and screen-based entertainment. This is particularly relevant as adolescence is a period where physical activity declines and sedentary activities increase which can be associated with negative health outcomes (Corder et al., 2015; Harding et al., 2015; Martinez-Gomez et al., 2012; Mitchell et al., 2013). Current guidelines recommend that children and adolescents aged 5-17 years should engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity (World Health Organisation, 2022). However, currently worldwide, fewer than 30% of children and adolescents are meeting this requirement (Neil-Sztramko et al., 2021).
We also know from research that childhood physical activity patterns can lead to similar patterns in adulthood (Harding et al., 2015), further emphasising the importance of your son establishing healthy fitness habits while young.
- Encourage your son to spend time outdoors, engaging in structured (e.g., playing team sport) and/or unstructured (e.g., riding a bike, walking the dog) activity.
- Encourage physical activity as a family by participating in activities together or finding a local sports team to join. Walking together can also offer a safe space to talk, free of distractions and technology.
- Try to lead by example by making physical activity a part of your daily routine
- Set achievable goals and track progress, rewarding your son for meeting his target.
- Note: A full 60 minutes of physical activity in one block of time may be unpragmatic. Scheduling several shorter sessions throughout the day can also be effective
School TV offers a suite of written and video resources on Physical Activity and exercise:
Australian Government - Department of Health and Aged Care:
Australian Government – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/physical-activity
Corder, K., Sharp, S. J., Atkin, A. J., Griffin, S. J., Jones, A. P., Ekelund, U., & van Sluijs, E.M. F. (2015). Change in objectively measured physical activity during the transition to adolescence. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(11), 730–736. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2013-093190
Harding, S. K., Page, A. S., Falconer, C., & Cooper, A. R. (2015). Longitudinal changes in sedentary time and physical activity during adolescence. The International Journal ofBehavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1), Article44. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966015-0204-6
Martinez-Gomez, D., Eisenmann, J. C., Healy, G. N., Gomez-Martinez, S., Diaz, L. E.,Dunstan, D. W., Veiga, O. L., & Marcos, A. (2012). Sedentary behaviors and emerging cardiometabolic biomarkers in adolescents. The Journal ofPediatrics, 160(1), 104–110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.06.037
Mitchell, J. A., Rodriguez, D., Schmitz, K. H., & Audrain‐McGovern, J. (2013). Greater screen time is associated with adolescent obesity: A longitudinal study of the BMI distribution from Ages 14 to 18. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 21(3), 572–575. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20157
Neil-Sztramko, S. E., Caldwell, H., & Dobbins, M. (2021). School-based physical activity programs for promoting physical activity and fitness in children and adolescents aged 6 to 18. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 9(9), ArticleCD007651. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007651.pub3
Pate, R. R., O’Neill, J. R., & Lobelo, F. (2008). The evolving definition of “sedentary.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 36(4), 173–178. https://doi.org/10.1097/JES.0b013e3181877d1a
Rees D, Sabia J. (2010) Sports Participation and Academic Performance: Evidence from the National Study of Adolescent Health. Economics of Education Review.29(5):751–759.
Rodriguez-Ayllon, M., Cadenas-Sánchez, C., Estévez-López, F., Muñoz, N. E., Mora-Gonzalez, J., Migueles, J. H., ... & Esteban-Cornejo, I. (2019). Role of physical activity and sedentary behavior in the mental health of preschoolers, children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 49(9), 1383-1410.
World Health Organisation. (2022, October 5). Physical activity.https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity