Children should play more and sit around less – WHO

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According to the World Health Organisation, it is healthier for children to play than for them to sit idly. This new guideline is meant to solve the problems of inadequate physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children.

Children should play more and sit around less – WHO

Parents should encourage physical activity from a very young age

The organisation has found that children under the age of five need more physical activity. WHO urges parents to reduce screen time for children, which means children shouldn’t sit around too long watching phone and tablet screens.

The new guideline also notes that children get better quality sleep when they engage in physical activities than when they are required to sit still in prams and seats.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, had this to say about WHO’s guideline: “Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people’s lives.”

The DG of WHO also noted that early childhood is the time to introduce patterns that will boost a family’s overall health.

This guideline comes from experts who have studied the effects of sedentary behaviour and physical activity on sleep in children under the age of five. To arrive at this conclusion, the panel of experts studied young children under five. The goal was to see how sleep patterns were affected by being physically active versus spending a lot of time looking at screens or sitting restrained in prams.

Dr Fiona Bull, the World Health Organisation’s manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of non-communicable diseases, had this to say about the study:

“Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and well-being, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.”

There’s an alarming statistic that 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents don’t engage in adequate physical activity. This sedentary lifestyle has led to up to 3 million deaths worldwide in many different age groups. Now, the World Health Organisation recommends that parents and caregivers should promote physical activity in early childhood. According to Dr Juana Willumsen, doing this can prevent childhood obesity and help promote better sleep patterns.

Children should play more and sit around less – WHO

Increased physical activity can end the scourge of early childhood obesity

The Commission on Ending Early Childhood Obesity has confirmed the connection between sedentary behaviour, physical activity and good sleep in young children. The commission suggests implementing the panel’s guidelines when the children are under the age of five. This is to set children on a path that will help them overcome childhood obesity while developing cognitive and motor skills.

Recommended physical activity according to age

0-2 Years

• At least 30 minutes of floor play (crawling, playing and stretching on their belly, etc.)

• Reduce sedentary screen time to 1 hour

• Should not be restrained in chairs or prams more than 1 hour at a time

• should get up to 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep and naps interspersed with wake up times

Ages 3-4

• spend about 180 minutes every day engaging in moderate to intensive physical activity

• should not be restrained more than 1 hour at a time

• Get up to 13 hours of sleep and naps every day with wake up times

Sedentary children are at risk of developing childhood obesity and suffering from poor sleep. They are also likely to suffer from cognitive and motor skills development issues. It is important for parents to reduce screen time and encourage young children to be more active.

Resources: WHO

Also Read: Smartphones and tablets can affect mental health in children as young as two

Written by

Julie Adeboye