Healthy habits catch on

31 January 2011

Children playing soccer.

A plateau in the number of overweight or obese NSW school students may be a result of programs in NSW public schools to increase physical activity and promote healthy eating.

Programs such as Live Life Well @ School (LLW@S) and the annual Premier's Sporting Challenge may have helped arrest the rising number of overweight and obese students in NSW, education department experts said.

LLW@S project officer Alex Shain said the program had achieved "brilliant results".

 "Over the last two years, more than 1,000 teachers from 450 primary schools have taken part in the Live Life Well @ School program where we give schools practical, effective tools for creating whole school change in physical activity and nutrition," Mr Shain said.

The department's PDHPE manager, Allan Booth, said the program strengthened the teaching of fundamental skills and opened pathways to participation in physical activity.

"More students, more active, more often is a strong theme of the program," Mr Booth said.

This year the LLW@School program has been redesigned to include:

  • two days of fully funded NSW Institute of Teachers accredited professional learning for department primary teachers
  • a series of ready-made online modules to allow the teacher to in-service staff back at school
  • a $2,000 implementation grant.

The comments follow the release of findings from the Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS). More than 8000 school students from 101 schools were measured for height, weight, eating habits, movement skills and fitness in early 10 as part of the NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition survey.

The survey results showed the overweight and obesity rate among students has stabilised at 22.8 per cent after a rapid rise during the years prior to 05.Other key findings from the survey include;

  • Less than half of high school students eat enough fruit.
  • Approximately 70 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls spend too much time recreationally in front of screens.
  • Almost 50 per cent of primary school students are driven to school and many students, especially girls, do not know how to run, jump, kick, throw or catch properly.

The department's school sport unit manager, Ross Morrison, said the Premier's Sporting Challenge had "proven to be an excellent tool to increase student's physical activity levels".

In 2010, 173,441 students from 880 schools (737 primary schools and 143 secondary schools) completed the Premier's Primary and Secondary School Sport Challenges, up from 74,000 students in 2008 and 158,000 in 2009.

More than 145,000 students (84 per cent of all participants) achieved either a Diamond or Gold Premier's Sporting Challenge award, registering 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day - the recommended national physical activity target.

 "We are committed to encouraging our school children to have a healthy lifestyle, and to support our teachers in implementing flexible, engaging programs that motivate students to be more active, more often," Mr Morrison said.

Find out more about the Live Life Well @ School program.

Photo by David Lefcovitch

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