Researchers contribute to first daily movement guidelines for children’s health

27 June 2016

Researchers contribute to first daily movement guidelines for children’s health

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) research into the relationships between sleep, physical activity and sedentary behaviour has provided evidence for the world’s first recommended daily movement guidelines for children and young people.

The ‘24-Hour Movement Guidelines’ were released in Canada by physical activity charity ParticipACTION, which produces an annual comprehensive assessment of child and youth physical activity, supported by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Conference Board of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The new guidelines provide recommendations for the optimal health of children and young people aged up to 17, within the four rules of ‘Sweat, Step, Sleep and Sit’.

According to the new guidelines, a recommended healthy 24 hours includes:

  • Uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for those aged 5–13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14–17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times;
  • An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities;
  • Several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities;
  • No more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time;
  • Limited sitting for extended periods.

GCU’s Dr Sebastien Chastin, Reader in Health Behaviour Dynamics, collaborated with colleagues at the University of Alberta and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute to sample the sleep duration, sitting time and physical activity of over 4,000 Canadian children and young people. The research team then used novel compositional analysis developed at GCU to statistically chart the collective health implications of finite, 24-hour movement behaviours.

Previously, research has examined the individual aspects of movement behaviours, including sleep, sedentary behaviour and physical activity, on health, rather than examining how they interact.

Using a more integrated approach, the team found that that displacing of moderate to vigorous physical activity by other behaviours had the biggest negative effect on health. Therefore maintaining levels of activity through childhood to adolescence and beyond is absolutely paramount in keeping healthy.

Dr Chastin said: “We have long known that engaging in moderate to vigorous activity is beneficial to health, but what we did not know is the effect of what we do during the rest of the day. In recent years it emerged that sitting too long and not sleeping enough might have an adverse effect on health even if we engage in the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

“The day is like a cocktail made of different parts; sleeping, sitting, doing light activities such as daily chores and hopefully engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. To be healthy, we need to get the cocktail right. The compositional analysis we have developed allows a breakthrough in finding the perfect recipe for a healthy day.”

Providing the evidence for the new movement guidelines, the research was published in CSEP’s journal, Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, published by Canadian Science Publishing.

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