The 4S guidelines your child should follow

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by Angie Kolen, PhD

In my previous blog post I wrote about the recently release ParticipAction Report Card on Physical Activity for children and youth where we once again received a D- for children’s level of physical activity.

NEW to this report card is the suggestion that we consider the whole day and the various component that interact and contribute to our children’s health. This new focus resulted in the creation of the 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth which include four components:

“Sweat, Step, Sleep, and Sit”

The recommendations for physical activity, i.e. “Sweat” have not changed – children and youth are still recommended to get at least 60 minutes of moderate or more intense physical activity each day. What is a new recommendation, is for at least several hours of light physical activity each day. Also new is an emphasis on uninterrupted sleep of 9 to 11 hours for children 5 to 13 years old and 8 to 10 hours for youth 14 to17 years old with consistent to bed and wake up times. We are also reminded that children and youth should have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time and that their sitting should be limited as much as possible.

These recommendations should cause us to reflect on the circumstances and environments we create for our children and whether they are able to meet these recommendations. A paradox may exist in that highlights from the report card suggest that children are too tired to be physically active and because they are not physically active enough, they do not sleep long enough or fitfully enough. Further, research presented in the report card suggests that children are getting less sleep today (about one hour less per night) than we did when growing up. Clearly, we have a conundrum on our hands. We need to recognize our children’s need to sleep and help them develop better sleeping habits. We also need to recognize our children’s need for physical activity and help them develop better physical activity habits. If we encourage physical activity throughout the day – physically active play, active transportation, sport and recreation – and in many different ways, they are likely to sit less, sweat more, step frequently, and sleep long enough and more deeply.

Angie Kolen, PhD. Professor, Human Kinetics, St. Francis Xavier University

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