Sedentary behaviours are mufti-faceted and might include behaviours at work or school, at home, in transit and in leisure time. Typically, sedentary behaviours include watching TV, using a computer, traveling by car, bus or train, or sitting to read, talk, do homework or listen to music. For small children, physical restraint, such as long periods in highchairs or playpens, “exersaucers” and carriers are all common barriers to physical activity that is unique to this age group.
In fact, recent research suggests that more than half of Canadian children and youth are not active enough for optimal growth and development. Many things like safety concerns, demanding schedules, TVs, computers and video games, and other modern conveniences have contributed to the decrease in children’s physical activity.
Sedentary behaviour goes against a child’s natural tendencies to be active. Although attending to daily tasks while young children are roaming free may prove to be a challenge to busy parents or caretakers, they should be aware of the need to reduce sedentary time in children in order to increase physical activity and to help establish more active behaviours. Examples of reducing sedentary behaviour for small children include:
- reducing time spent in infant carriers, car seats or highchairs
- reducing time spent in walking aids or baby bouncers that limit free movement
- reducing time spent in front of the TV or other screens
For older children, Health Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology developed the following sedentary behaviour guidelines.
Children and young people should be given the opportunity to be active whenever possible. However, parents who perceive the environment to be unsafe should consider what this level of risk entails and how to manage this without limiting a child’s opportunity to be physically active.