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New Guidelines for Children’s Health

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

The World Health Organization recently published new guidelines for children under the age of five. These guidelines address factors impacting children’s physical and mental health. The recommendations seek to help parents balance the need for physical activity with sedentary behavior, including the use of screens.  Sleep recommendations are also part of the guidelines as many children are chronically sleep deprived.  The goal of these recommendations is to improve children’s development and lifelong health.

Below is a summary of the guidelines from a World Health Organization news release from April 24, 2019, entitled “To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more. New WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep for children under 5 years of age.” A link to the full executive summary follows.

Recommendations at a glance:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 14–17 hours (0–3 months of age) or 12–16 hours (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is NOT recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 10-13hours of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

WHO Executive Summary “Guidelines on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep for Children Under 5 years of Age”

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311664/9789241550536-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at kkr5@cornell.edu.

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