McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

First-ever Canadian guidelines for keeping infants and toddlers moving more and sitting less

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: March 26, 2012
Brian Timmons
Brian Timmons, an assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics

McMaster University researcher Brian Timmons is expecting a lot of feedback from parents of infants and toddlers with the release of new Canadian guidelines which recommend keeping children under two years of age away from television, computer and electronic games.

And they add that two-to-four-year-olds should be limited to one hour a day. Less is better.

The recommendations are part of the first Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for newborns to four-year-olds which were released today (Tuesday, March 27) alongside Canada’s first physical activity guidelines for this age group.

Timmons, assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, McMaster University and McMaster Children’s Hospital, was one of two lead researchers in the development of the guidelines which point to the urgent need for children under five to become far more active and sit much less than they do now.

He helped lead development of the guidelines with Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO), Children Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, University of Ottawa.

Timmons said there is no evidence to support the popular belief that educational programming, such as Baby Einstein and children’s television programming, improves a child’s cognitive function. "If anything, they even impair it," he said.

Timmons is hopeful the guidelines will encourage parents to re-think how their daily life unfolds and finding ways to change it, such as walking children to school instead of driving them there and asking their day care centre about the opportunities it provides their child to be physically active.

The guidelines are Canada’s first evidence-based physical activity guidelines and the world’s first standalone sedentary behavior guidelines for children ranging in age from newborns to four-year-olds. (Previously, guidelines were developed for children five and older, and adults).

The early years guidelines received an overwhelming response from more than 900 stakeholders which include the Canadian Pediatric Society, educators, public health units and parents.

Accumulating evidence indicates 80 per cent of a child’s time in their early years is being spent sedentary.

The sedentary guidelines recommend limiting time spent sitting, or being restrained, in a stroller or high chair to no more than one hour at a time.

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest infants under one should be physically active indoors and outdoors several times daily — particularly through interactive floor-based play, such as tummy time, reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling and crawling.

Toddlers (aged 1 – 2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3 – 4 years) should accumulate at least 180 minutes (three hours) of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day – such as playing outside, brisk walking, running, dancing.

By age five, children should progress towards at least 60 minutes of energetic play, such as hopping, skipping and riding a bike.

The guidelines are presented by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and ParticipACTION with support from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO).


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