Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years: An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep

PARC Speaker Series Recap

On December 12th, PARC and the Best Start Resource Centre (BSRC), co-hosted a webinar with Dr. Casey Gray on the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years. During the webinar, background and rationale behind the development of these Guidelines, the methods for their development, the final guidelines, next steps, and additional resources were shared and discussed with participants.

An Interview with Dr. Casey Gray

1. What are the top three takeaways that you would like attendees to leave the webinar with?

I.    The whole day matters! Our research showed that high physical activity, low screen time, and long sleep duration were each related to various indicators of health in children of the early years. It also showed that the way these movement behaviours combine can influence health indicators. For example, the favourable relationships between high levels of physical activity and health indicators were weaker if children were also engaging in too much screen time or not getting enough sleep – meeting the physical activity recommendations alone isn’t enough!

II.    Most Canadian children younger than 5 years of age are not meeting the screen time recommendations. Only 24% of Canadian preschool children spend less than one hour each day watching screens, and among toddlers only 15% meet the recommendation to avoid screen time. This is concerning because too much screen time before age 5 can lead to language and attention disorders, lower school readiness and poor motor skills. With most Canadian early years children meeting the physical activity and sleep recommendations, restricting screen time stands out as an urgent area for action.

III.    The 24-Hour Guidelines are intended as a resource to help parents and caregivers ensure their children are getting a healthy balance of physical activity, sleep, and sedentary behaviours in their daily lives. The Guidelines are not intended to cause stress or make parents feel guilty if they cannot follow the recommendations every day. There may be road trips a few times a year requiring little ones to sit in car seats for long periods and disrupting sleep schedules. Getting back into the pattern of limiting restrained time and keeping consistent bed and wake times as soon as possible is important to support the healthy growth and development of young children.  

2. How would you like the webinar attendees to use the information 6 months from now?

Six months from now I would love to see webinar attendees championing the “more is better” aspect of the physical activity recommendation, and the “less is better” aspect of the screen time recommendation. Reconsidering rules and activities that discourage children from moving around while indoors, increasing outdoor time - even when it’s raining/snowing/hot/windy, and doing away with screens would go a long way toward supporting the health of young children. Rather than thinking of the Guideline recommendations as a target, think of them as a starting point.  

3. What excites you most about the world of physical activity right now?

I would have to say, I am most excited that we aren’t operating alone in the world of physical activity anymore – or at least that process is starting. For some reason, rather than working with other sectors to accomplish the same goals, we have been competing for resources. As with the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, where experts and practitioners from physical activity, sleep, and sedentary behaviour came together to develop a public health guideline, people are now working across sectors to improve the health of Canadians. Another example is the formation of Outdoor Play Canada. Developed to maintain the momentum of the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play, Outdoor Play Canada is a network individuals and organizations working together to ensure every child in Canada plays outside every day. Nature conservation, injury prevention, child development and other involved sectors all have an interest in promoting outdoor play. It makes sense to work together.

Please share any thoughts or questions you have with us on Twitter @Health_Nexus and @PARCOntario using #PARCBlog.

To view the webinar recording, visit: