HealthStats NSW
HealthStats NSW
HealthStats NSW

Physical activity in children by behaviour type

Boys, Adequate physical activity, 2016-2017
29.9Boys, Adequate physical activity, 2014-2015
31.9Boys, Adequate physical activity, 2012-2013
32.8Boys, Adequate physical activity, 2010-2011
30.4Boys, Adequate physical activity, 2008-2009
33.8Boys, Adequate physical activity, 2006-2007
38Boys, Sedentary behaviours, 2016-2017
51.2Boys, Sedentary behaviours, 2014-2015
46.7Boys, Sedentary behaviours, 2012-2013
51.5Boys, Sedentary behaviours, 2010-2011
49.6Boys, Sedentary behaviours, 2008-2009
51.5Boys, Sedentary behaviours, 2006-2007
58Girls, Adequate physical activity, 2016-2017
18Girls, Adequate physical activity, 2014-2015
24Girls, Adequate physical activity, 2012-2013
25.5Girls, Adequate physical activity, 2010-2011
24.4Girls, Adequate physical activity, 2008-2009
25.4Girls, Adequate physical activity, 2006-2007
26.5Girls, Sedentary behaviours, 2016-2017
36.2Girls, Sedentary behaviours, 2014-2015
35.9Girls, Sedentary behaviours, 2012-2013
37.5Girls, Sedentary behaviours, 2010-2011
40.4Girls, Sedentary behaviours, 2008-2009
40.1Girls, Sedentary behaviours, 2006-2007
  • + Source

    NSW Population Health Survey (SAPHaRI). Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health.

  • + Notes

    Adequate physical activity: the indicator includes children who achieve adequate physical activity. It is defined as 1 hour or more of vigorous or moderate physical activity outside of school hours each day.

    Sedentary behaviour: the indicator includes children who spent more than 2 hours per day on sedentary leisure activities.

    Parent-reported data collected through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). Estimates weighted to adjust for differences in the probability of selection among respondents and benchmarked to the estimated residential population using the latest available Australian Bureau of Statistics mid-year population estimates. Estimates are based on aggregated data for the defined time periods.

    In order to address diminishing coverage of the population by landline telephone numbers (<85% since 2010), a mobile phone number sampling frame was introduced into the 2012 survey.

    LL/UL 95%CI = lower and upper limits of the 95% confidence interval for the point estimate.

  • + Data Table
  • + Download
    • Add to My Report
    • Download the indicator content
    • Download the data
    • Download the associated information
    • Download the graph image
  • + Methods
  • + Codes
  • + Related Indicators
  • + Associated Information
    • Key points: Physical activity

      Latest available information

      Latest available data for adults in NSW

      - In New South Wales, 38.5% of adults aged 16 years and over (35.5% of men and 41.4% of women) undertook insufficient levels of physical activity (less than 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity a week, or 150 minutes of activity, or more, over fewer than five sessions a week), as estimated from the 2019 NSW Population Health Survey (self-reported using Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing or CATI).

      - Nationally, 17.8% of persons aged 18 years and over (19.8% of males and 15.8% of females) in NSW were sufficiently active in the last week (more than 300 minutes of physical activity over five sessions), as estimated from the 2017-18 National Health Survey (interviewer-administered questionnaire).

      - Depending on the design, implementation, achieved response rates and target population, different surveys purporting to measure the same outcome can arrive at different conclusions. However, most surveys will generally produce broadly consistent estimates when comparing sub-groups, such as sex or age, within each survey. For measurements that are reliant on activities undertaken "in the last week", continuous surveys provide a means of capturing consistent data over the year without being subject to seasonal influences.

      Latest available data for secondary school students in NSW

      - 18.6% of students aged 12-17 years (21.8% of boys and 15.5% of girls) undertook adequate levels of physical activity, as estimated from the 2017 NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey (self-completed questionnaire).

      - 12% of adolescents aged 13-18 years (15% of boys and 8% of girls) met the recommended daily physical activity level of at least 60 minutes in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity on every day of the week, as estimated from the 2015 NSW School Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS).

      Latest available data for children in NSW

      - 23.0% of children aged 5-15 years (26.1% of boys and 19.6% of girls) achieved adequate levels of physical activity, as estimated from the 2018-2019 NSW Population Health Survey (parent-reported using CATI).


      Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey: First Results (4364.0.55.001); NSW Tables, 2017-18. Available at:

      Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW Adult Population Health Survey. Available at:

      Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey. Available at:

      Hardy L. SPANS 2015 - NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) - Full Report, University of Sydney, 2016. Available at: 

      Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW Child Population Health Survey. Available at:

    • Introduction: Physical activity

      Physical inactivity as a health risk factor

      Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles, that requires energy expenditure. Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally (WHO 2012).

      Physical activity is an important factor in maintaining good health at any age. People with sufficient physical activity have lower rates of preventable morbidity and mortality than those who are physically inactive. Regular moderate intensity physical activity – such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports – has significant benefits for health. For instance, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. Moreover adequate levels of physical activity will decrease the risk of a hip or vertebral fracture and help control weight (WHO 2012).

      There is strong evidence for the beneficial effects of moderate to vigorous physical activity on children and adolescents musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health, adiposity, blood lipid levels, social and mental health, and academic performance (Strong et al., 2005).

      Definition of sufficient physical activity

      To maintain good health, the National physical activity guidelines for adults recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Moderate intensity activity includes brisk walking, dancing, swimming, or cycling, which can be undertaken in shorter bursts such as 3 lots of 10 minutes (AGDHA, 1999 and 2005).

      Australian recommendations for levels of physical activity in young people are at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day (AGDHA, 2004).

      Burden of disease in Australia due to physical inactivity

      Physical inactivity was responsible for 2.5% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2015 (AIHW, 2019), contributing significant burden to breast cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, bowel cancer and stroke (Begg et al, 2007). Physical activity is a preventive factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes mellitus and injury.

      It is increasingly difficult for children and adolescents to participate in a physically active lifestyle in Australia. An increase in sedentary recreational activities, such as watching television and videos and playing computer games, coupled with a culture of driving children to school and other activities instead of walking or cycling have all contributed to creating an environment that encourages more sedentary pursuits (Booth, 2000).

    • Interventions: Preventive health

      The NSW Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy 2013-2018 provides a whole of government framework to promote and support healthy eating and active living in NSW and to reduce the impact of lifestyle-related chronic disease.

      The Strategy has four key strategic directions:

      • • environments to support healthy eating and active living
      • • statewide healthy eating and active living support programs
      • • healthy eating and active living advice as part of routine service delivery
      • • education and information to enable informed, healthy choices.
    • For more information: Health-related behaviours

      Useful websites

      Australian Bureau of Statistics at

      Australian Institute of Health and Welfare at

      healthdirect at

Last Updated At: Tuesday, 5 May 2020