95% of NZ girls aged 11 to 17 not exercising enough

A new report from the World Health organization shows Kiwis are lagging behind the rest of the world in physical activity, with one expert saying there’s a “mix of things” we need to focus on to increase our exercise levels.

According to the report, 95% of girls aged 11-17 are physically inactive and 85% of boys in the same group are physically inactive, compared to a global average of 81%.

Forty-five percent of women are inactive and 39% of men are inactive, and 62% of women and 55% of men over 70 do not exercise enough.

New Zealand chief executive Richard Beddie told this breakfast “a lot of people were shocked by these statistics”.

“I think the illusion that New Zealand has is that we are a sporting nation, and we know that on the sporting field we have great talent,” he said.

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“But the problem is that it generally does not translate into participation, and elite sports and participation are not as linked as people would think.

“And I think this fixation with exercise is part of the problem because exercise is part of the solution to physical activity, but not the only part.

“There are two other important parts, one of which is spontaneous activity – whether it’s cycling to work or when walking to school, cycling to school – but there’s also structured exercise.”

Treadmill in the gym.

He said structured exercise is growing rapidly, so exercise has a role to play, but it’s not a long-term solution.

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“That’s the mix we have to focus on,” Beddie said.

Hadleigh Pouesi, a youth worker at Zeal New Zealand, agrees.

“Trying to get kids to be physically active, you’re now competing with their devices,” he said. “So at a young age, they don’t know the joy of just being physically active, it goes straight to competition, and when you go to competition, a lot of young people avoid it.

“They don’t want to be a part of it, but they don’t get the chance to find out about the fun that can be had through physical activity.”

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Beddie said figures for girls in particular were a “major problem”.

“If you look at it at the school level, it really affects academic performance, the best thing you can do for young kids is to get them physically active, it actually improves their academic performance.

“Enjoying what we do with physical activity is very important, not doing it as a chore, because the reality is that it will be done in a short time,” he said.

“We have to focus on things that we can enjoy, and whether it’s rugby, or netball, or going to the gym, or yoga, those are activities that we can do and some of them are not competitive, and that’s very important. .”

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