A National Survey of Children and Young People's Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviours in New Zealand: 2008/09: Key Findings

Published online: 
06 September 2010


This is the first national survey of physical activity, sedentary behaviours and dietary habits in five to 24 year-olds in New Zealand. The Survey was commissioned by SPARC together with the Ministries of Health, Education and Youth Development. Face-to-face interviews with follow-up telephone calls were conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,503 participants from September 2008 to May 2009. Objective measures of height and weight, and physical activity (accelerometers) were used.

The results highlight the physical activity and nutrition needs of young people particularly through the transition years, from puberty to adulthood.

Key Findings:

Physical activity declines markedly with age:

  • Overall two-thirds of children and young people met the Guidelines for physical activity (60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day for 5-18 year-olds, 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week).
  • Almost all 5-9 year-olds met the children's physical activity guidelines (60 minutes per day), however only 15 percent of 20-24 year-olds met the adult guidelines (30 minutes per day).

Screentime increases with age:

  • Overall, four out of ten (40%) children met the guideline of less than two hours per day in front of TV, computers and game consoles.
  • Six out of ten (60%) 5-9 year-olds met the guideline, dropping to 35 percent of 20-24 year-olds.

Healthy Eating behaviours decline, and unhealthy eating behaviours increase with age:

  • Only one-third (32%) met the guideline for total vegetable and fruit intake (5 or more servings per day)
  • Consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt tended to increase with age.
  • Breakfast consumption (on five or more days a week) declines with age from 94 percent of 5-9 year-olds to 61 percent of 20-24 year-olds.
  • Amongst 20-24 year-olds, 14 percent drank fizzy drinks seven or more times per week, and 10 percent drank energy drinks five or more times per week.

Body Size

  • Six out of ten (60%) of children and young people were found to have a healthy weight for their height with the remaining either overweight (23%), obese (13%) or underweight (4%).
  • The prevalence of obesity did not differ significantly by age or gender, except for 20-24 year-old females, who were more likely to be obese than males in the same age group.
  • The prevalence of obesity increased as level of deprivation increased.
  • Just over a third (37%) of 10-24 year-olds were doing nothing about their weight, 33 percent were trying to lose weight, 20 percent were trying to stay the same weight, and 10 percent were trying to gain weight.

Publishing information

  • Date of publication:
    06 September 2010
  • Hardcopy date of publication:
    01 September 2010
  • ISBN:
    978-0-478-36654-9 (online)
  • HP number:
  • Citation:
    Clinical Trials Research Unit, Synovate. 2010. A National Survey of Children and Young People's Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviours in New Zealand: 2008/09 - Key Findings. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
  • Ordering information:
    Only soft copy available to download
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