Australian schoolchildren rank among the worst in the world for overall exercise levels, narrowly avoiding a fail mark in a new national report card.
The first physical activity report by Active Healthy Kids Australia has found only one in five children aged five to 17 is getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day, while 80 per cent are having more than the maximum two hours of screen time.
Measured against an international ranking tool developed in Canada, Australian children scored poorly against 14 other countries, receiving an overall physical activity level of D-, lower than the mark for 10 other countries, including Britain and New Zealand.
They scored a D- for spending too much time watching television and using electronic devices, faring worse than eight countries, including the US. And though Australian children got a B- for organised sport, only one-fifth walked or cycled to school.
The National Heart Foundation, which supported the research carried out at several universities, said it was hard to ignore the evidence.
Active living spokesman Trevor Shilton said it was the first snapshot of the situation in Australia and how it compared with other countries.
"The grades aren't good, with most kids not getting the 60 minutes a day of physical activity we recommend, and equally worrying is the amount of time kids are spending sitting in front of screens," he said.
"In one generation we've seen a massive shift, and we're nowraising a generation of couch potatoes. If we don't start to reverse this trend ,this will drive up health problems in the future."
He said driving instructors were teaching teenagers who had never ridden a bicycle and had rarely been pedestrians, so they had little appreciation of judging speed and distance.
"There are far too many Australian children where their experience of the road is the back seat of their parents' car," Mr Shilton said.
Report author Natasha Schranz, from the University of South Australia, said many parents believed playing sport was enough to keep their children healthy.
Sian Morris, of Bassendean, said she encouraged her children to use a bike or scooter to get to school because it kept them active and gave them important life skills such as road safety awareness.
"It makes it seem a normal part of life and makes them realise they don't need to be driven everywhere," she said.