Canadian Kids Need More Sleep And Physical Activity  



Fighting fatigue day in and day out due to lack of sleep? Feeling like a lazy bum? Time to get off the COUCH, and kick your kids off too while you’re at it!

The ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth was recently released. This report is one of the most comprehensive assessments of child and youth physical activity in Canada, synthesizing data from multiple peer-reviewed research publications. Being a promoter of health, I was asked to connect with my readers about the important findings.

The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth; An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep, highlights the inter-relationship between physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep. It also provides recommendations on how much of each is needed for a child’s optimal health in a 24-hour period. For more facts and info check out this link.

The moral of the story is that if a child gets sufficient physical activity during the day but doesn’t get enough sleep at night, there are some potential negative health impacts. Conversely, if a child gets a good night’s sleep, but has inadequate daily physical activity, there may also be some important health ramifications. We all know that exercise is good for us, and that we need enough sleep. But, what’s interesting about the findings is the direct inter-relationship and dependency between the two.

According to the report sedentary lifestyles are connected to a ‘sleepidemic’ amongst Canadian youth and reveals that children’s sleep duration has decreased by 30-60 minutes over the last decades. While this may not seem significant, it actually is and has been having an impact on our youth!

Sleep is an essential component of healthy cognitive and physical development for all of us, especially for kids.

  • Children with reduced sleep are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity, problem solving, and generally score lower on IQ tests
  • Short sleep duration produces adverse hormonal changes like those associated with increased risks of obesity, diabetes and hypertension
  • Chronic sleep loss contributes to higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts

While the report was specifically targeted at children and youth, I think it’s fair to conclude that adults are not immune to the impacts of lack of sleep and sedentary behaviour and the interrelationship between the two is pretty clear. It’s starting to become evident that poor or insufficient sleep can cause hormone responses that make it harder to lose weight, and even cause weight gain. We also know that being sedentary for many hours a day leads to loss of lean muscle mass, and can even affect mood, attention span, and energy levels. If you struggle with these issues, you’ve probably also noticed that the more tired you are, the harder it is to get off the couch and move. And ironically, the less we move the poorer our sleep.

So, what’s happening then is a vicious cycle of couch potato-ness and crappy shut-eye. This cycle is affecting us and is also clearly impacting our kids.

So what can you do?

  • Encourage physical activity in your household as much as possible. Ideally a combo of strength and aerobic activities that are functional and fun. The recommendation is for an accumulated 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
  • Vigorous activity that strengthens muscles and bones like soccer, gymnastics, weight training classes etc., should be done on some days (3 days a week), and increasing light physical activity daily is important too. This could include simple things like household chores, walking the dog, gardening, biking to school, etc.
  • Limit screen time and general sedentary time to 2 hours a day or less
  • Strive for consistent bed and wake up times. On average 8-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night is recommended for kids. Specifically, 9-11 hours for the younger kids (5-13 yrs), 8-10 for teens (14-17 yrs) and for most adults, 7-9 hours is generally ideal.

About Author

Born and raised in Toronto, Debora Sloan is excited about her new home in our nation’s capital with her husband and brand new baby boy. Living with type 1 diabetes since her teenage years nurtured a strong interest in Health and Fitness and so, after a career in the arts and marketing and managing her own art business, Debora returned to school to pursue a degree in Nutrition. Debora is now working towards her dream job, as she builds her private practice as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer. She likes to practice what she preaches, and as a new mom, on a budget, in a new city, she hopes to prove that there’s always a way to eat well and stay fit. Visit Debora online at .

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