Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What does a healthy 24 hours look like for your child?

Sonya Brown
Sonya Brown, Health Promotion Co-ordinator, AHS Community Health Services - It’s that time of year again. The time of year when alarm clocks are set extra early; morning routines are back in action; school lunches are carefully prepared the night before; and new fall activities have filled the calendar. The long days of summer and family vacations are nothing but a memory, and although getting back to “routine” can feel like a relief to some – to others it feels more like organized chaos.

Parents have an important job as they are responsible to ensure their children get enough sleep, are fueled by healthy foods, and remain active throughout the day. As a Health Promotion Co-ordinator, I often get asked what is the right amount (of sleep, healthy foods and physical activity) to ensure a child’s optimal health.

For optimal health children and youth need to sweat, step, sleep and sit the right amounts. According to the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card, if you think your child can get a little physical activity and then play video games into the wee hours, yet remain healthy, you’re in for a rude awakening.

“Sleep deprivation is becoming a problem for Canadian children and youth, creating an insidious threat to their mental and physical health,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, ParticipACTION Report Card. Currently, only nine per cent of children get enough heart-pumping physical activity and only 24 per cent are meeting screen time guidelines of no more than two hours per day (2016 ParticipACTION Report Card).

Increased sedentary behaviour in children and youth has been a growing concern for years. What has been most alarming is the relationship between increased sedentary behaviour (screen time) and sleep deprivation in children. For the first time, the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth includes a new 24 hour Movement Guidelines.

So what does a healthy 24 hours look like for your child?

9 to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for those aged 5–13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14–17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times;

An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities and muscle and bone strengthening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week;

Several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities;

No more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time;

Limited sitting for extended periods

For more information on the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card and the 24 hour Movement Guidelines visit:

Sonya Brown is a Health Promotion Co-ordinator with AHS Community Health Services. She can be reached by e-mail at

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