New WHO guidelines on physical activity, lack of exercise and sleep disorders for children under 5 years
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According to the new guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), it is important to promote the health of children under 5 years of age to increase their physical activity, reduce their sitting time and ensure a good night’s sleep. Improving children’s physical, mental health and well-being can help prevent obesity and related illnesses later in life.
Failure to comply with current physical activity recommendations is responsible for 5 million deaths in all age groups worldwide each year. Currently over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are not sufficiently physically active. When healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and sleeping habits become established early in life, it helps shape habits during childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.
The pattern of all 24 hour activity is key here. The Commission identified the important interactions between physical activity, sedentary behavior and adequate sleep as well as their effects on physical and mental health and well-being to combat obesity in children. The WHO has now called for clear guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior and the sleep of young people.
The application of the recommendations in the now published WHO guidelines in the first 5 years of life will contribute to the motor and cognitive development of children and to lifelong health.
Recommendations for young children (under 1 year)
Physical activity: Children under the age of one should be physically active several times a day, in particular by playing on the floor interactively. More is better. For those who are not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in the prone position (tummy time).
Sit: Children should not sit for longer than 1 hour (e.g. strollers / prams, high chairs or stretcher). Reading and telling is recommended when sitting. Screen times are not recommended.
Sleep: Children in this age group should sleep well for 14–17 hours (0–3 months) or 12–16 hours (4–11 months), including naps.
Recommendations for children from 1-2 years
Physical activity: Children of this age group should exercise for at least 180 minutes throughout the day. This includes physical activity of any intensity: from moderate to vigorous. More activity is better.
Sit: Children should not sit for longer than 1 hour (e.g. strollers / prams, high chairs or stretcher). Reading and telling is recommended when sitting. For 1 year olds, a sedentary screen time (e.g. television or videos or computer games) is not recommended. For children aged 2 years, the sitting screen time should not be more than 1 hour. Less is better.
Sleep: Children in this age group should sleep well for 11-14 hours, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.
Recommendations for children between 3 and 4 years
Physical activity: Children of this age group should spend at least 180 minutes a day doing a variety of physical activities of any intensity. At least 60 minutes should be spent on moderate to vigorous physical activity. More is better.
Sit: Children should not sit for longer than 1 hour (e.g. strollers / prams). Reading and telling is recommended when sitting. A sedentary screen time should not exceed 1 hour. Less is better.
Sleep: Children in this age group should sleep well for 10–13 hours, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.
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