Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour in Children (5-11 years) and Youth (12-17 years)


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Children should be physically active in three areas of their lives:

  • At school
  • Going to and from school and other places
  • During leisure time

Children (aged 5-11 years)

How much physical activity?

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children state that "Children aged 5-11 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity of physical activity daily. This should include:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week

More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits."

How much sedentary behaviour?

Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children state that "Children aged 5-11 years should minimize the time they spend being sedentary each day. This may be achieved by:

  • Limiting recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day; lower levels are associated with additional health benefits
  • Limiting sedentary (motorized) transport, extended sitting and time spent indoors throughout the day"

Youth (aged 12-17 years)

How much physical activity?

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Youth state that "Youth aged 12-17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. This should include:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week

More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits."

How much sedentary behaviour?

Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Youth state that "Youth aged 12-17 years should minimize the time they spend being sedentary each day. This may be achieved by:

  • Limiting recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day; lower levels are associated with additional health benefits
  • Limiting sedentary (motorized) transport, extended sitting and time spent indoors throughout the day"

Physical literacy

Being physically active later in life is dependent on developing basic movement skills during childhood, like running, throwing, catching and swimming. By developing these movement skills, children increase how confident they feel during activity. Feeling confident in their abilities to be active is known as physical literacy. Everyone has a role to play to helping children become physically literate.

Parents and caregivers can:

  • Ask childcare providers and teachers about the amount and types of physical activity their children are getting at daycare and school
  • Give your child opportunities to use the basic skills they are learning at daycare and school - take them to the park, enrol them in community sports leagues that focus on a range of skills rather than one specific sport
  • Allow your child to try a variety of sports opportunities to find out what they like
  • Include physical activity in your family's lifestyle; for example, walk to the store and school, limit TV time for the whole family and play with your children

For more information about physical literacy, visit the Canadian Sport for Life website  

 


Walking and Cycling to School

Walking and cycling to-and-from school can help children and youth establish healthy lifestyle habits. Although 58 per cent of Canadian parents walked to school when they were younger, only 28 per cent of their children walk to school today. Furthermore, if children walked for all trips of less than one kilometre - rather than being driven - they would take an average of 2,238 more steps per day. This translates into approximately 15-20 minutes of walking (Active Healthy Kids Canada, 2013).

Walking and cycling to school:

  • Improve fitness and reduce the risk of different chronic diseases
  • Increase academic achievement
  • Provide social opportunities
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve air quality and reduce air pollution

For more information visit Active Transportation and Active and Safe Routes to School


Play

Play is important for children and youth to try new things, be creative and test their abilities. It is so important that the United Nations recognizes it as right for every child. When play includes activities that involve moving it has many benefits for health and wellbeing and helps children meet the recommended levels of physical activity each day.

With the popularity of video games and other electronic devices, active play has been decreasing and children are spending more time being sedentary. As a result, ParticipACTION has started a 'Bring Back Play' campaign.


Active video games

Active video games involve more body movement in the way in which they are played than older, more traditional video games.

Active video games may help keep children, youth and adults moving during winter months and when other things make it difficult to get outside. However, they do not replace other types of physical activity described earlier. These types of games do not offer the social benefits that playing sports, walking with friends or taking dance lessons do.

In November 2012, Active Healthy Kids Canada released a position statement  on active video games. "Active Healthy Kids Canada does not recommend active video games as a strategy to help kids be more physically active."

Recommendations from Active Healthy Kids Canada

  • Active video games can help to break up sedentary time, like sitting on the couch, but are not as active as playing actual games or sports 
  • Enjoy playing active video games with your kids, and let them enjoy playing them with their friends, but don't see them as a replacement for other types of physical activity 
  • Spend money on skipping ropes, balls, ice skates or other sporting equipment for exercise rather than on active video games 
  • For children with developmental delays, movement challenges or injuries, speak to your child's physiotherapist, doctor or other health professional about whether or not active video games should be part of their treatment or rehabilitation program

See also

Region of Waterloo Public Health, Child & Family Health - Healthy Eating, Weights and Physical Activity for School Age Children (4-9 years)  

Region of Waterloo Public Health, Child & Family Health - Healthy Eating, Weights and Physical Activity for Youth  

Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (PALS) Active & Safe Routes to School


Links and resources

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