Are our children sitting for too long during schooldays?
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, concern has been expressed in various countries regarding the increased sedentary behaviours of children. Too little time is spent being physically active and high levels of sedentary behaviour, especially screen time, are associated with poor health and academic performances for school-aged children.
An international report with recommendations designed to counteract this has been released by the Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN), in partnership with the University of Prince Edward Island and the CHEO Research Institute.
A ‘healthy’ school day includes:
- Breaking up periods of extended sedentary behaviour with both scheduled and unscheduled movement breaks
- at least once every 30 minutes for ages 5 to 11 years
- at least once every hour for ages 12 to 18 years
- consider a variety of intensities and durations (e.g., standing, stretching breaks, moving to another classroom, active lessons, active breaks).
- Incorporating different types of movement (e.g., light activities that require movement of any body parts, and moderate to vigorous activities that require greater physical effort) into homework whenever possible, and limiting sedentary homework to no more than 10 minutes per day, per grade level. For example, in Canada this means typically no more than 10 minutes per day in grade 1, or 60 minutes per day in grade 6.
- Regardless of the location, school-related screen time should be meaningful, mentally or physically active, and serve a specific pedagogical purpose that enhances learning compared to alternative methods. When school-related screen time is warranted,
- limit time on devices, especially for students 5 to 11 years of age;
- take a device break at least once every 30 minutes;
- discourage media-multitasking in the classroom and while doing homework;
- avoid screen-based homework within an hour of bedtime.
- Replacing sedentary learning activities with movement-based learning activities (including standing) and replacing screen-based learning activities with non-screen-based learning activities (e.g., outdoor lessons) can further support students’ health and wellbeing.
Common sense tells us that these are valid suggestions. It will be interesting to see how educators, families and other caregivers respond.