Children Need to Sit Less & Play More: WHO Introduces New Guidelines

April 30, 2019

Early childhood is a time of rapid physical growth and cognitive development. It’s also a time when habits are formed and lifestyle routines are set. Yet sedentary behaviours and insufficient sleep are increasingly prevalent among young children, leading to poor health and poor lifelong habits.

To address this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines for children under the age of five that focus on increasing physical activity, Children%20Need%20to%20Sit%20Less%20%26%20Play%20More%3A%20WHO%20Introduce%20New%20Guidelinesgetting ample sleep, and reducing sedentary behaviour. For the first time the amount of screen time is outlined – rarely, and never for those under the age of one.

Lifelong habits are developed in these early, formative years – habits that can either contribute to obesity and other diseases later in life, or prevent them. With sedentary behaviour, a leading risk factor for obesity and other chronic diseases, increasing the amount of physical activity along with getting enough sleep at this crucial age can set the stage for a healthy future.
The guidelines were developed by a panel of WHO experts who explain that they are about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime while protecting sleep, which will contribute to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.
Here are the recommendations at a glance:

Infants (under one year of age) should:

  • Be physically active several times per day in a variety of ways
  • Not be restrained (i.e. stroller, high chair, carrier) for more than one hour at a time

Children one to four years of age should:

  • Spend at least three hours throughout the day in a variety of physical activities at any intensity
  • Not be restrained (i.e. stroller, high chair, carrier) for more than one hour at a time
  • One year olds should have no screen time; two to four year olds should have no more than one hour (though less is better)
  • One to two year olds should get 11-14 hours of quality sleep; three to four years old should get 10-13 hours

To see the full set of guidelines and for more information, click here.

Doctors of BC has long recognized the importance of encouraging kids to be more active and make healthier lifestyle choices. In partnership with local elementary schools, Be Active Every Day supports doctors around the province who, during the month of October each year, lead students in activity challenges to teach them about the importance of good health, nutrition, and fitness – and to turn healthy choices into health habits. Information on the program can be found here.

Media stories on this topic:

CBC News – WHO recommends one-hour maximum screen time per day for young kids

Global News – New WHO guidelines on screen time say babies shouldn’t have any

CTV News – No screen time for babies; only 1 hour for kids under 5: WHO

The New York Times – W.H.O Says Limited or No Screen Time for Children Under 5

The Washington Post – World health officials take a hard line on screen time for kids. Will busy parents comply?