Failing to meet current physical activity recommendations is responsible for more than 5 million deaths globally each year for all age groups. Currently, more than 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are not physically active enough. If healthy physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep habits are established early in life, this helps shape habits into adulthood.
Children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, they should spend less time restrained in seats and strollers, they need better sleep and more time to play if they are to grow up healthy, according to new guidelines developed by a World Health Organization (WHO) panel of experts. The WHO recommends no screen-time for the first two years of life, and less than an hour for children between ages 2 and 5.
For young children, it is important to replace prolonged restrained or sedentary screen time with increased activity and more play, while making sure children get enough quality sleep.
Quality sedentary time spent in non-screen-based activities with a parent, such as reading, storytelling, singing and puzzles, are also important for development.
Applying the recommendations in these guidelines during the first five years of life will contribute to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.
Infants, less than 1 year old:
- Be physically active several times a day: the more interactive play, the better. For infants who are not yet mobile, include at least 30 minutes in prone position spread throughout the day while awake.
- Do not restrain them for more than 1 hour at a time, in high chairs, strollers or on a caregiver’s back. No amount of screen time is recommended. When not active, reading and storytelling is encouraged.
- Have 14–17 hours of quality sleep from age 0–3 months and 12–16 hours from 4–11 months of age, including naps.
Children 1-2 years of age:
- Spend at least 3 hours physically active at any intensity, spread throughout the day, the more the better.
- Children should not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time and should not sit for long periods of time. For one-year-old children, screen time is not recommended. At 2 years old, screen time should not be for more than 1 hour. When not active or playing, engaging in reading and storytelling is encouraged.
- Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps.
Children 3-4 years of age:
- Spend at least 3 hours in a variety of physical activities at any intensity, with at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, spread throughout the day.
- Do not restrain children for more than 1 hour at a time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.
- Children at this age should get 10–13 hours of good quality sleep, with regular sleep and wake-up times.