Healthy Choices for Kids

Benefits of Keeping Kids Active

Regular physical activity is so important for children’s development, not just physically, but also socially and mentally. Being active can help children:

  • Improve cardiovascular fitness (heart and blood flow)
  • Build strong muscles and bones
  • Learn coordination, movement control and confidence
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Have less risk of chronic disease in later life
  • Improve self-esteem and have less depression, anxiety and emotional distress
  • Improve learning and attention span, and achieve more at school
  • Have more chances to express themselves, learn new skills and have fun
  • Build social skills such as cooperation, respect for others, problem solving, athleticism, fair play and teamwork

From tummy time to tag

Small babies need tummy time when they are awake and alert. That means putting them on their stomachs so that they can build muscles to lift their heads, move their arms and legs, learn how to roll and get ready to crawl and explore.

As they grow, keep looking for ways to make it easy for your child to be active. Kids look to their parents. Show them that you like to move too. Get out for walks in places where they can play tag and ball games. Dance with them. Show them that you prefer taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Limit the time they spend sitting in front of a screen, and find the spaces where they can run, jump, climb, dance, swim, and bike their way to lifelong good health.

Run. Jump. Play. Every Day.

Active play

Active play comes in many forms and varies with age. Active play is any unstructured, child-directed movement that children do for fun – playground games like tag, skipping or ball games for instance. The energy spent in play varies – it may be more or less vigorous than organized sports, but a child tends to do it longer, choosing for themselves when to rest. And it’s not just great for a child’s growing body – it has social and mental health benefits too.

Active transportation

Active transportation is any way that children move from A to B using their own power. Besides walking and running, it includes things like biking, in-line skating and skate boarding.

Sports and other structured physical activity

Children who take part in some form of organized physical activity are more likely to meet Canada's physical activity guidelines. Ontario children in grades 1 to 8 are required to get at least 20 minutes of sustained moderate to vigorous daily physical activity each school day. Elementary and middle school students have physical education classes. Structured physical activities might also occur out of school, including participation in sports teams, martial arts and dance.

Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines

Physical Activity

Physical activity is any form of regular movement. For kids of all ages, it should include bouts of moderate to vigorous activity that raises their heart rate. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines setout levels of activity for children as they grow:

  • Infants (less than 1 year) should be physically active several times daily – particularly through interactive, floor-based play
  • Toddlers (1-2 years) and preschoolers (3-4 years)should get at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day. This should increase towards at least 60 minutes of energetic play each day by 5 years of age. Encourage different activities that develop movement skills
  • Children and youth (5-17 years) should enjoy moderate to vigorous physical activity adding up to 60 minutes daily.

Reducing the time that children spend sitting

Sedentary behaviour means doing things that require very little movement, while in a sitting or reclining position like watching TV, playing passive video or computer games, travelling by car, or spending time in strollers or high chairs. Research suggests that children with high levels of sedentary behaviour have greater health risks, no matter how active they are at other times.

The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend these limits for sedentary behaviours in children:

  • Infants and toddlers under 2 years: Limit time in strollers or high chairs to no more than one hour at a time. No screen time is recommended
  • Children 2-4 years: Limit screen time to one hour per day
  • Children and youth 5-17 years: Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day
  • Children of all ages: Limit motorized transport, extended sitting, and time spent indoors throughout the day

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