Are young children inactive and sedentary?

Physical activity guidelines for the early years (i.e, for those under 5 years old), recommend at least 180 minutes, or three hours of physical activity at any intensity per day. There are also screen time guidelines that recommend no more than 1 hour of recreational screen time per day.

By the time children hit their fifth birthday, they should be accumulating at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity each day. These recommendations are just part of the new 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, which also recommend at least 10 hours of sleep per night and no more than 2 hours of discretionary screen time per day.

New research using data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey suggest that the majority of young children are meeting physical activity guidelines yet exceeding screen time guidelines and that older children are missing the mark on physical activity guidelines but meeting screen time guidelines.

Specifically, 73% of 3-4-year old’s are meeting physical activity guidelines of 180 mins of activity throughout the day while only 30% of 5-year old’s get at least 60 mins of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity per day.

For screen time, only 22% of 3-4-year old’s watch less than 1 hour of discretionary screen time, 76% of 5-year old’s watch less than 2 hours.

Take home message

This study shows that young children are meeting guidelines of activity at any intensity, but as they progress to guidelines for older children, they are not accumulating enough higher intensity activity for optimal health.

On the contrary, the large majority of young children are exceeding current screen time guidelines, but older children seem to limit their screen time to less than 2 hours per day.

In light of the new 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, it may be worthwhile to reiterate the recommendations that increasing physical activity, and decreasing sedentary time above and beyond current guidelines is associated with additional health benefits.


Article title: Physical activity and sedentary behaviour of Canadian children aged 3 to 5

Authors: Didier Garriguet, Valerie Carson, Rachel C. Colley, Ian Janssen, Brian W. Timmons and Mark S. Tremblay

Link to abstract (from Health Reports)