New WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity, Screen Time, and Sleep for Young Children

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep for children under 5 years of age. The guidelines say that for children to grow up healthy they must spend less time sitting (including being restrained in prams and seats) and watching screens, and more time actively playing, with longer, better quality sleep. Doing these things will improve a child’s “physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life,” says Dr Fiona Bull, programme manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases, at WHO.

If healthy levels of sedentary behaviour, play and physical activity, and healthy sleep habits are established early in life, children are more likely to have well-formed healthy habits throughout adolescence and adulthood. Applying the recommendations from WHO early in a child’s life will ‘contribute to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health’, WHO say.

 

Recommendations at a glance:

Per day…

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.

 

Sources:
https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-healthy-children-need-to-sit-less-and-play-more

https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/311664