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Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey: 2010

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Just over 8,000 school students in years K, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 were surveyed in 2010 as part of the NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS 2010). SPANS 2010 was the third in a series of school-based surveys of NSW school students.

SPANS 2010 gives lots of useful information to guide action as well as some encouraging signs that prevention efforts are on the right track.Some key findings are listed below.

Some key findings 


  • In 2010, nearly a quarter of students surveyed were overweight or obese.
  • Overweight/obesity was more common amongst students from poorer backgrounds, those with a Middle-Eastern background, and in rural primary school boys.
  • For the first time in more than two decades the rate of childhood overweight and obesity had not increased. This finding from SPANS 2010 indicates that among children, rates of overweight and obesity have levelled out - suggesting that the prevention efforts over the past 8 or so years have had a positive effect.

Physical Activity and sedentary behaviour 

  • Less than half of Year K, 2 and 4 students reached the Australian Physical Activity Guideline (at least one hour of moderate-vigorous physical activity every day) for young people. 
  • Physical activity patterns appeared to be influenced by the season - just under two thirds of students in Years 6, 8 and 10 met the Australian Physical Activity Guideline during summer school terms, but only half met the Guideline during winter school terms. 
  • Physical activity levels were consistently higher among boys, students from advantaged backgrounds and from Asian backgrounds.
  • Many young people spent more than the recommended limit of two hours per day in small screen recreation (TV, computers etc outside homework time).
  • Between 2004 and 2010 there was a trend towards increased time spent by students in small screen recreation.

Food habits  

  • Few students ate the recommended amount of vegetables.
  • Many students consumed too many ‘extra’ foods and drinks such as soft drink, chips, confectionary etc. These are high in kilojoules but low in nutritional value.
  • Younger children were better fruit eaters than teenagers.
  • Milk drinkers tended to drink full cream milk instead of reduced fat milk as recommended.