HealthStats NSW
HealthStats NSW
HealthStats NSW

Physical activity in children by behaviour type

Sedentary behaviours, All LHDs
47.2 (44.4, 50)Adequate physical activity, All LHDs
23 (20.5, 25.5)Sedentary behaviours, Far West
59 (46.5, 71.4)Adequate physical activity, Far West
30.2 (19.1, 41.3)Sedentary behaviours, Western NSW
38 (28.4, 47.5)Adequate physical activity, Western NSW
22.7 (14.4, 31)Sedentary behaviours, Murrumbidgee
48.2 (38.5, 57.9)Adequate physical activity, Murrumbidgee
24.8 (16.9, 32.8)Sedentary behaviours, Southern NSW
39 (26.6, 51.3)Adequate physical activity, Southern NSW
25.6 (15.2, 36)Sedentary behaviours, Mid North Coast
54.3 (42.8, 65.9)Adequate physical activity, Mid North Coast
26.4 (16.2, 36.5)Sedentary behaviours, Northern NSW
51.7 (40.3, 63.2)Adequate physical activity, Northern NSW
38.3 (25.9, 50.7)Sedentary behaviours, Hunter New England
41.7 (33.5, 50)Adequate physical activity, Hunter New England
35.9 (26.7, 45)Sedentary behaviours, Central Coast
51 (39.2, 62.8)Adequate physical activity, Central Coast
27.1 (15.7, 38.5)Sedentary behaviours, Northern Sydney
39.1 (30.9, 47.2)Adequate physical activity, Northern Sydney
15.6 (9.5, 21.8)Sedentary behaviours, Nepean Blue Mountains
47.9 (38, 57.9)Adequate physical activity, Nepean Blue Mountains
14.3 (8.6, 20.1)Sedentary behaviours, Western Sydney
47.2 (38.1, 56.4)Adequate physical activity, Western Sydney
14.6 (8.4, 20.8)Sedentary behaviours, Illawarra Shoalhaven
55.3 (45.6, 65)Adequate physical activity, Illawarra Shoalhaven
22 (14.2, 29.7)Sedentary behaviours, South Eastern Sydney
43.3 (34.1, 52.5)Adequate physical activity, South Eastern Sydney
19.5 (11.8, 27.3)Sedentary behaviours, South Western Sydney
57.2 (48.5, 66)Adequate physical activity, South Western Sydney
23.5 (15.3, 31.7)Sedentary behaviours, Sydney
48.6 (38.7, 58.4)Adequate physical activity, Sydney
26.1 (16, 36.3)
  • + 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.

    Data for some Local Health Districts (LHDs) may not be included individually due to low numbers. All LHDs includes these LHDs where numbers are low, and records where the LHD was missing or not stated. Albury Local Government Area (LGA) is included in All LHDs.

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

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    • 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