Teens and sport
What the research shows
Fewer than one in three Australians today are getting enough physical activity to benefit
their health. Long-term habits are often formed in childhood and adolescence. By focusing
on young people we can capitalise on the opportunities for intervention before unhealthy
behaviours are established.
Young people (12–17 years):
a period of massive change
Young people aged 12 to 17 years go through major transitions—
from primary school to secondary school, and from childhood
to adulthood. They experience significant physical, mental,
social and intellectual changes, in addition to becoming
During this period, young people spend their time across a range
of activities including attending school, studying, part-time
work, socialising, and other pursuits such as learning to drive.
Some are physically active outside school, in gyms and sporting
clubs, and in non-organised activities and places such as in
parks and open spaces.
Not all 12–17 year olds are the same in their levels of physical
activity and sport participation. As many adolescents become
older, their lives become more complicated, with competing
demands. Sport often becomes more stressful and as result a
lot of young people become less active. Less active adolescents
are typically far less confident that they have the skills required
to play a sport. Some of these young people feel positively
towards sport, but drop out or don’t participate as regularly
as they would like, either because of a lack of opportunity or
because sport does not meet their needs and expectations.
The state of play
Nine out of ten (92%) Australian 12–17 year-olds DO NOT meet
the Australian Physical Activity guidelines of 60 minutes
of physical activity every day.2 As children age, they tend
to engage in less physical activity and more sedentary
Figure 1 from The Australian Health Survey (2011–2012) shows:
• For 5–8 year olds the ratio of physical activity to
screen-based activity was almost 1:1, with more than
100 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical
activity (not including active transport) and less than
100 minutes of screen-based activity.
• For 15–17 year olds, the ratio was almost 1:5, with fewer
than 40 minutes of physical activity per day and more
than 180 minutes of screen-based activity.
Figure 1: Average minutes per day spent in physical activity and sedentary screen-based activity, 2011–2012
(including active transport)
(not including active transport)
Sedentary screen-based activity