Kids Need 24 Hours of Healthy Behaviours

By Kim Simpson on 26/07/2016

The most recent ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity on Children and Youth 2016 provides a fresh perspective to looking at physical activity and children. This research about children’s health and physical activity clearly demonstrates the link between sedentary activity (sitting), sleep and physical activity participation.

This recent report suggests we take a look at guidelines from a 24-hour approach - sit less, sleep better and move more over the course of the entire day. Current guidelines for the daily physical activity of children and youth prescribe one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. This new 24-hour approach suggests it isn’t just about one hour of activity; it is about the other hours in the day too. How much kids move, how they sleep and how long they sit all add up to providing the best potential for healthy development in children and youth.  I think we can all agree, this makes good sense.

crashed kidGiven the opportunity, healthy active children innately run, play and move to exhaustion. They run hard and they run fast - then they crash. They sleep as hard as they play. This physical activity participation to exhaustion leads to a better night’s sleep and the opportunity for their bodies to recharge and do it all again the next day. Kids who run hard, sleep hard - anywhere, anytime (you certainly know kids like this!).  Sleep and physical activity are interrelated - one impacts the other.

However, kids that spend more time sitting and/or who do not sleep well at night, not surprisingly, end up with less motivation to participate in physical activity. In a world of late-night screen time, fewer opportunities for physical activity (due to perceived risk and built environmental changes) and increased sedentary activity kids (more use of technology and fewer steps per day) these kids are starting their days with very little fuel in the tank. As a result, they're moving less and not reaching recommended guidelines for physical activity.

So what can we do? It feels really simplistic to say: sit less, get good quality sleep and move more - but at the end of the day the equation is that simple. The message here is that they are all interconnected: sleep, sitting and moving. In order to provide children with the best opportunities for healthy development, we want to ensure they are given the opportunities to play all day long and get a restful night’s sleep.

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Kim Simpson

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