Bit by bit, kids need to sweat, step, sleep and sit

In my mind’s eye, when I think of an ideal childhood, I see kids in a whole variety of settings: running through a green field, snuggling in front of a TV, giggling over something funny at dinner, whizzing around the house, the pitter-patter of socks slipping and sliding on wood floors. 

It’s funny to think how active the kids are in most of these images, when the reality of childhood today is quite different.

I imagine childhood today looks more like little faces sitting slack behind the glow of a smartphone or TV, or rushing with Mom to after-school soccer practice or stuck behind a desk at school, bored, tired and seated for hours. There is a time and place for both sedentary behaviour and screen time. But, in today’s busy world, life often gets in the way of physical activity. Only nine per cent of Canadian kids and youth are getting the physical activity they need, and there are consequences affecting their health.

We need to rethink the way we approach moving through our days. There is a time for running, jumping and playing, and for sitting and for sleeping. And, thanks to the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth—we know the right amounts of each activity needed for optimal kids health.

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Kids need to:

SWEAT

At least 60 minutes per day of heart-pumping physical activity

STEP

Several hours of structured and unstructured light activity each day

SLEEP

9-11 hours of sleep per night for children and 8-10 hours of sleep per night for youth

SIT

Reduce sedentary time, with no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day

Kids who follow the guidelines will benefit from better body composition, stronger hearts and lungs, improved academic achievement and cognition, better emotional regulation… in short, they will be smarter, happier and healthier—mentally, socially and physically.

By helping kids achieve the right balance of sweating, stepping, sleeping and sitting, you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of healthy living.

The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines were developed by HALO-CHEO, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, the Conference Board of Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, ParticipACTION and a group of leading researchers from Canada and around the world, and with input from over 700 national and international stakeholders.