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Parents urged to increase children's activity levels to protect their mental health

Parents urged to increase children's activity leve
Photo: Children activity levels
The events of 2020 have significantly impacted the mental health of young Australians, prompting a reminder from the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) that physical activity is a crucial part of the solution.

Research suggests that children and adolescents have been disproportionately affected, taking the brunt of the emotional distress caused by the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and natural disasters.

And with the pandemic forcing a reduction in organised sports and exercise, the psychological repercussions have been compounded. 

So, with the recommencement of schooling, and children returning to a relatively normal routine, now is the time for kids to get active.

“As physios, we really encourage kids to be physically active in whatever way they most enjoy,” Chair of the APA Mental Health Group, Ellen Lake.
The key, says Ms Lake, is making the activity fun, to encourage proactive engagement.

“It might be a structured team sport, or it could be more of a fun pursuit like dancing, gym sessions or swimming.

“The activity doesn't matter as long as it's done regularly and in a safe way.”

According to Ms Lake, it’s often assumed that children don’t have the same stress factors or pressures as adults, and therefore their mental health is less at risk.

This is not the case.

“While many school-related events and situations can cause stress, anxiety and other mental health strains – such as starting at a new school, exam and test pressure, and social challenges, additional challenges such as remote learning, isolation from teachers and school friends, and witnessing the stress of those around them are being blamed for the decrease in mental well-being.

“When your mental well-being is impacted, so is your sleep, your ability to focus and engage in the classroom, and your motivation to be physically active.

“All of which can have a significant detrimental impact on younger people and their ability to thrive physically, socially and emotionally” says Ms Lake. 

But Ms Lake says there’s more to improving mental health than simply telling our kids to get moving.

She says it’s important to encourage open dialogue about mental health, so children and students feel comfortable asking for help, just as they would if they had a physical injury.

“Whether your child is in primary school or in their final years of high school, starting and continuing these conversations is more important than ever in 2021.”

“Physios can not only assist children to get active and prevent injury, they can also be advisors and support parents and caregivers looking for guidance in these areas.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.