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Sleep just as good as exercise to keep kids trim

Jackie Sinnerton, May 4, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia

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Victorian sisters Elodie, 10, and Imogen, 8, get plenty of sleep and exercise to keep them healthy and happy. Picture: David Caird media_cameraVictorian sisters Elodie, 10, and Imogen, 8, get plenty of sleep and exercise to keep them healthy and happy. Picture: David Caird

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An early night can work wonders for kids, with new research showing sleep can reduce Body Mass Index* just as well as exercise.

Australian scientists have discovered while physical exercise gives premium* all-round health and wellbeing, children can achieve the same 7.4 per cent reduction in BMI by either exercising 17 minutes more a day, sleeping an extra 52 minutes or reducing their sitting or sedentary* time by an extra 56 minutes.

The study, from the University of South Australia, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the National Heart Foundation of Australia, assessed* 1179 children aged 11 and 12.

“International guidelines suggest that children need nine to 11 hours sleep, 60 minutes of physical exercise and no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day, yet only 7 per cent of children are regularly meeting these goals,” said lead researcher Dr Dot Dumuid, from the University of South Australia.

“With so many competing priorities and commitments, it’s helpful to know which activities deliver the greatest ‘bang for your buck*’.”

QLD_CM_NEWS_KIDS COAST media_cameraStaying active during the day helps Queensland’s Buswell siblings, Leo, 7, Tex, 4, and Ivy, 8, sleep well at night. Picture: Lachie Millard

The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows one in four Australian children aged 2-17 were obese or overweight in 2017-18.

Obese and overweight refers to excess body weight. Excess weight, especially obesity, is a major risk factor for chronic* conditions, such as cardiovascular* disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, back pain and some cancers.

Queensland sleep consultant Amanda Bude said sleep had an impact on children’s physical and mental health.

“Sleep health is not just about the physical characteristics of health but also the mental health safety of our teens,” she said.

“ Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on emotional development and manifest* in mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, and risk-taking behaviour.

“It is so important that parents are able to help their children navigate* the over scheduling* of their busy lives and keep healthy as well.

“As a child enters the teenage years their circadian* clock starts to set later and later and finding a balance is essential.”

Sunshine Coast mum Cindy Buswell said keeping her four children active during the day helped them get a good night’s sleep.

“Good sleep and exercise should go hand-in-hand, not one or the other,” she said.

Sandringham mum Maxine Thomson said sleep was important for her two daughters, Elodie, 10, and Imogen, 8.

“They have always had a pretty good routine,” she said. “At 8pm we do reading and wind down.”

GLOSSARY

  • Body Mass Index (BMI): an internationally recognised standard for measuring overweight and obesity by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres
  • premium: best, highest quality
  • sedentary: not moving, being inactive
  • assessed: looked at to make a judgment
  • bang for your buck: to get the greatest benefit by doing a particular thing
  • chronic: something that keeps happening over a long time
  • cardiovascular: to do with the heart and blood vessels
  • manifest: become visible or obvious
  • navigate: find the way through something
  • over scheduling: having too many activities planned
  • circadian: the natural processes the body goes through in a 24-hour period, including sleep

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How much more sleep do children need to reduce their BMI by 7.4 per cent?
  2. How much more exercise do children need to reduce their BMI by the same amount?
  3. How many children aged 11 and 12 were part of this study?
  4. How much sleep, exercise and screen time do international guidelines suggest for children?
  5. What percentage of children regularly meet these international guidelines?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Self assessment
International guidelines suggest that children need nine to 11 hours sleep, 60 minutes of physical exercise and no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day.

Rewrite the following sentences and fill in the gaps to assess whether you are meeting the guidelines:

Last night I went to sleep at …… and this morning I woke up at …….. This means I got ……… hours of sleep.

The exercise I did yesterday was …………………. (name the activities) and I did this for a total of …….. minutes/hours.

Yesterday, my recreational screen time (e.g. watching TV, playing computer games, playing on a Smartphone, etc. for fun) included ……………. and I did this for a total of ……. minutes/hours.

In the last day, I met/did not meet (choose one) the international guidelines.

If you think you can remember well enough, you could complete this task for the past week, or keep a diary for the coming week to get a broader view of whether you meet the guidelines. If you find that you do not meet the guidelines, write down what it is you need to change.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
Write a weekly schedule that includes suitable bedtimes and wake up times, exercise times and recreational screen time use that fits within the suggested guidelines. Also include all necessary activities such as going to school. Can you find a way to fit it all in?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education

VCOP ACTIVITY
Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.

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