The Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA) released Youth Physical Activity Report Cards sponsored by Sun Life for five Asian markets including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The report cards show that the overall physical activity levels of children and adolescents in these markets is far from satisfactory, raising an alarm for stakeholders to work together to improve the physical activity levels of children and youth in the post-pandemic era.
Sun Life has partnered with the AHKGA to support the Youth Physical Activity Report Cards, which are an evidence-based synthesis of children’s and adolescents’ behavior toward physical activity. By using a series of indicators related to individual behaviors, settings, strategies and other factors, the report cards provide insights and recommendations for improving the physical health of young people in Asia and around the world.
The report cards published in 2022 as part of AKHGA’s Global Matrix 4.0, provide a first opportunity to assess child and youth physical activity in a post-pandemic era.
- In terms of overall physical activity, Hong Kong and Malaysia attained a grade D- while Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam received a grade F, which means fewer than 20% of children ages 6 to 17 are achieving at least an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) across the week. That is a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) on how much physical activity is needed for the good health of young people.
- Children’s increasingly sedentary behavior is concerning in both mature and fast-developing economies such as Hong Kong (grade D) and Vietnam (grade C-). More than half of youth spend more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day in these two markets. The grades for sedentary behavior in Hong Kong have steadily deteriorated in the last six years (2016: C; 2018: C-; 2022: D), reflecting the negative impact of digital media use trends on the physical health of children.
- Less than half of children in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam use active transportation, such as walking or cycling, to go to school, the park, the mall or other places.
Urgent need to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior
Physical inactivity has been recognized as a risk factor for major non-communicable diseases (NCDs). For children and adolescents, regular physical activity participation is beneficial for physical fitness, cardiometabolic health, bone health, and psycho-cognitive outcomes.
The report cards indicate that there is an urgent need to increase physical activity levels among young people in Asia to support their physical and mental development. In addition, home-based learning, closure of sport facilities and reduction of sports activities due to the pandemic has worsened the situation. It has been widely reported that children and adolescents have become more physically inactive and spent more time in sedentary screen use since the pandemic was announced.
“The Active Health Kids Global Alliance is excited to be working with Sun Life to promote the physical activity of children and youth in Asia and around the world,” said AHKGA President Dr. Mark Tremblay, who is also a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. “Our shared commitment to disease prevention is particularly important and timely in the wake of unintended collateral harm to active living behaviors resulting from COVID-19 restrictions.”
“Through sponsoring Active Healthy Kids Report Cards by AHKGA, we hope to contribute to AHKGA’s overall ambition to encourage children’s healthy lifestyles through thought leadership, capacity building, advocacy, and awareness,” said Dr Steven Ho, Medical Director of the Global Medical Team at Sun Life. “The effort is part of Sun Life’s Purpose to help people live healthier lives.”