fitness

"Yes, we do need to pay parents to get their kids to exercise. Here's why."

As of next year, NSW parents are going to be offered $100 per kid to get them playing sport.

Online commentators have already attacked the move, labelling it “vote-buying” and “middle-class welfare”. But a leading researcher into child obesity has praised it, saying it will help the kids who need it most.

The Active Kids Rebate was announced in the NSW budget yesterday. From January 1 2018, parents will be able to register online to receive a $100 voucher which can be used to help pay for kids’ sporting activities.

Every child enrolled in school, from kindergarten to Year 12, is eligible, and it’s not means-tested.

Listen: Di Westaway found the exercise that works best for her: walking.

The voucher can be used towards registration or membership fees for a wide range of sports, including netball, swimming, gymnastics and athletics.

Sydney paediatrician Professor Louise Baur says it makes sense.

“Obviously there are some families for whom the costs of for whom this doing extra sport for their kids isn’t a barrier,” she tells Mamamia.

“But there are families is a very real issue. The cost of uniforms, kitting out a child, cost of registration, etc, can be a real barrier.

“This is about physical activity, and it’s about inclusion – getting rid of those barriers that stop kids, who probably need it more than most, to have the opportunity to be involved.”

Kids living in wealthier suburbs are already at an advantage when it comes to exercise.

“The more socially advantaged areas tend to be safer to walk in, they have more parks and green space, they even have beaches and things like that,” Professor Baur points out.

But do we really need to pay parents to get their kids to exercise more?

It’s no news to anyone that obesity is one of our most serious health issues. Professor Baur says obesity rates went up dramatically in the 1980s, due to the rise of fast food and more people driving cars.

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“Few kids walk to and from school now, a whole lot less than two generations ago,” she explains. “There are things that stop kids from getting outside of the home – the pull from inside the home with all of those screens.

We should be doing anything we can to encourage kids to get active. (Image via iStock.)

“Yes, of course parents could just say, ‘Turn off your screens,’ but hey, that means we’d have to stop doing it ourselves.”

Professor Baur thinks it’s harder for parents of today to get their kids active.

“When I was a kid, we could disappear into the local bushland for almost all of the day on the weekend and our mother would not worry about us. Now, I can tell you, that same bushland has a motorway through it. And parents worry about stranger danger," she says.

She thinks the rebate is a step in the right direction towards fighting childhood obesity.

“We need a number of things to help, and this is one of the things that I think might help.”