World Health Organisation: New guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for Early Years

World Health Organisation: New guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for Early Years

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More than 5 million deaths across all ages worldwide each year result from a failure to meet physical activity recommendations. Over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are insufficiently physically active.

This is the current picture. So, how can we change the future picture?

Start in early years. 

“Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people’s lives,” says WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains.”

New guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlight the importance of establishing healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleeping habits in early life; key to the formation of healthy behaviours through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Developed by WHO experts, the new guidelines were born from assessing the impact on young children of inadequate sleep, and time spent sitting watching screens or restrained in chairs and prams, in addition to looking at the evidence around the benefits of increased physical activity.

And what are the benefits of increasing physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring good-quality sleep in young children? Improvements in physical and mental health, wellbeing and supporting the prevention of childhood obesity and associated diseases in later life.

WHO outline the key pattern of overall 24-hour activity: time spent restrained or sedentary screen time is to be swapped with active play, whilst ensuring children are getting adequate good-quality sleep. Vital to a child’s development is quality sedentary time, partaking in interactive non-screen-based activities with a caregiver.

So, what does WHO recommend for the first 5 years of a child’s life? Contributing to a child’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health, WHO presents the following recommendations:

 

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake. 
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.  
  • Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

 

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

 

 

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged. 
  • Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

 

For more information on the WHO guidelines, click here.