Heart Foundation wants government to push us off the couch

HEALTH experts have called on governments to encourage Australians, particularly children, to get off the couch and become more active.

The Heart Foundation on Thursday released a "13-point plan" to help Aussies engage in physical activity.

Foundation chief executive Mary Barry said that while Australians believed we were an active nation, "the data tells a different story".

"The majority of Australian children between the ages of 5-17 do not currently meet the physical activity guidelines and participation decreases with age, from 36% of five- to eight-year-olds to just 6% of 15- to 17-year-olds," she said.

"What is also disturbing is eight in 10 children exceed (television and computer) screen-time guidelines of two hours per day."

The foundation's plan, released days before the next sitting of parliament in Canberra, includes a call for more cycling and walking paths, less "prolonged sitting" at home and work, and further promotes the wider benefits of sport and physical activity.

Foundation national spokesman Trevor Shilton said inactivity was estimated to cost the nation's economy about $14 billion a year and was "causing 16,000 premature deaths".

"Only one in five kids in secondary school and a third of those in primary school walk or cycle to school," he said.

"As a society we need to do what we can to support active kids who walk and cycle to 'future proof' them against chronic disease."