Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines
Levels of physical activity and fitness have dropped dramatically in Canada over the last several decades, while the number of Canadians considered overweight or obese has steadily increased. There has also been a steady increase of weight-related diseases such as type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Participating in regular physical activity is an effective way to prevent the development of many health issues across all ages, genders, and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Below are the guidelines for the minimum amount and types of physical activity each age group should get.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Children
Children 0-4 years
Infants should be physically active daily as a part of supervised indoor and outdoor experiences. Parents and caregivers should encourage infants, toddlers and preschoolers to participate in a variety of physical activities that support their healthy growth and development. Activities should be age-appropriate, enjoyable and safe, and occur in range of settings including family, childcare, school and community. Activities could include tummy time, reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling, and crawling.
For healthy growth and development:
Infants (aged less than 1 year) should be physically active several times daily – particularly through interactive floor-based play.
Toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) should accumulate at least 180 minutes of physi¬cal activity at any intensity spread throughout the day, including:
- A variety of activities in different environments.
- Activities that develop movement skills.
- Progression toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play by 5 years of age.
Children 5-11 years
Children are encouraged to participate in a variety of safe, enjoyable physical activities that support their natural development.
For health benefits, children aged 5-11 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. This should include:
- Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week.
- Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week.
Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children
So what is sedentary behaviour? It’s defined as: a distinct class of behaviours characterized by little physical movement and low energy expenditure (e.g. sitting, computer use, watching television, playing video games).
Children and youth are encouraged to limit sedentary behaviours and to participate in safe, enjoyable physical activities that support their natural development. Children and youth should limit recreational screen time (television, computer, video games, etc.), motorized transportation, indoor time and extended periods of sitting.
Following these guidelines can improve body composition, cardio-respiratory and musculoskeletal fitness, academic achievement, self-esteem and social behaviours.
Children aged 0-4 years
For healthy growth and development, caregivers should minimize the time infants (aged less than 1 year), toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours. This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) for more than one hour at a time.
- For those under 2 years, screen time (eg. TV, videos, computer, electronic games) is not recommended.
- For children 2-4 years, screen time should be limited to under one hour per day; less is better.
Children aged 5-11 years
For health benefits, children (aged 5-11 years) should minimize the time they spend being sedentary each day. This may be achieved by
- Limiting recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day; lower levels are associated with additional health benefits.
- Limiting sedentary (motorized) transport, extended sitting and time spent indoors throughout the day.