Children spend too much time sitting… but they don’t have to

Jessica’s daughters, Emma (L) and Rose, stand beside the poster for the KFL&A Public Health ‘Sit Less’ campaign in the Isabel Turner branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. The poster features a photo of Emma and Rose playing dress-up as an option for active playing. Photo by Jessica Foley.

 

Winter can be a sedentary time of year for many people. The cold weather we’ve been having definitely keeps me inside more than I’d like. Early darkness and messy weather conspire to keep me and my family warm and cozy, and often sitting on our butts!

Reading a good book, playing cards and games with my kids, and watching TV or movies are choice activities this time of year. That’s all well and good for some family bonding time, but did you know half (51.8 per cent, or 2.54 million) of children and youth (5-17 years) fail to meet the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines? (Source: Government of Canada Website, 2012-13, CHMS)

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health has created a website (Sedentary Behaviour for Children) with some interesting statistics and ideas about screen time and its effects on children – or more specifically the benefits of less sedentary time.

The #SitLessKFLA campaign is sharing ideas and ways to keep kids active more often in their daily lives. Of course, adults benefit just as much from less sedentary time – and less screen time.

My grade 5 daughter is monitoring her screen time as part of a classroom project this month. It’s amazing how quickly two hours of screen time goes by. That’s the recommended maximum amount for children as stated by the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines (https://csepguidelines.ca/children-and-youth-5-17/).

These guidelines also outline how much sleep children require, on average, as well as the recommended amounts of vigorous, and light, physical activity. Of course, while our children are at school we have less control over their extended periods of sitting and inactivity, but when they are at home there are easy ways to increase their moving time.

Get outside – Go for a walk, play in the snow or at the park, find some friends and neighbours and get playing!

Enroll in extracurricular activities – My girls dance eight hours a week (between the two of them), so there isn’t a lot of sedentary time in our evenings. Joining a team or even a community group gets you out of the house and participating in at least some light activity.

Monitor screen time and turn off screens at meal times – It’s easy to eat distractedly while watching TV. Being present at the dinner table not only allows for better family time, it also helps you focus on your food and your body.

Walk or bike to school (if possible) – This doesn’t work for us, but we do walk to the bus stop which is about two blocks from home. If you live close to your child’s school, consider letting them walk (with you, if they are not responsible enough yet) or ride their bicycles.

Be a good influence – Get yourself moving and be a positive example for your children. Put down your phone often and spend more time being active. I take a dance class one night a week while my girls are there and I love it! I also walk a fair distance from my parking spot downtown to my workplace. Being active always puts me in a good mood and I feel the benefits.

“In Canada many parents, myself included, struggle to help their kids sit less. For children between five to 17 years of age, guidelines recommend no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time and limited sitting for extended periods,” said Peter Bearse, public health nurse with KFL&A Public Health.

“As a parent of a busy 4-year-old boy and 21-month-old girl, I totally get it! Screens are often seen as an easy tool to help parents get things done, but it is important to set reasonable limits and role model what we want to see. I always remind myself that the habits that we teach our children when they are young will shape their health as they grow up.”

If you’ve been to the Isabel Turner library you may have seen this image:

Those are my daughters! They participated as models for the #SitLessKFLA campaign. Photographers came to the house and took a ton of photos of the girls. The girls had a lot of fun playing while they tried to find just the right shot.

We’ve taken part in a few other campaign photo shoots, but they haven’t used any of those yet. Keep your eyes on KFL&A  Public Health’s social media profiles – you may see more pictures of my girls!

I have a post on my personal blog about reducing screen time, and I talk a little about being involved in this campaign. Read it here: Easy ways to reduce screen time as a family.

I would love to hear how you keep your kids, and yourself, active in your daily life. I have a parking spot about 10 minutes from my workplace so there’s a bit of exercise I get every day, whether I want to or not!

 

Jessica is a girl mom, music lover, avid reader and writes her own blog A Modern Mom’s Life. She is open to ideas and topics for future articles for Kingstonist. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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