Exercise, sleep, screens: New guidelines for children under 5

For the greatest health benefits, how much play time, screen time and sleep should your baby or young child have in a given day? The...

Posted: Apr 25, 2019 3:50 AM
Updated: Apr 25, 2019 3:53 AM

For the greatest health benefits, how much play time, screen time and sleep should your baby or young child have in a given day? The World Health Organization has some answers.

On Wednesday, the United Nations' public health agency released its first guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep for children under 5. The guidelines varied by age group: infants younger than 1, children 1 to 2, and those 3 to 4.

"We haven't previously had recommendations for under 5," said Juana Willumsen, an expert in WHO's Department of the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, who contributed to the development of the new guidelines.

Previously, WHO offered guidelines for older people. In 2010, the agency released global recommendations on physical activity for health, making recommendations for three age groups: children aged 5 to 17, adults 18 to 65 and adults 65 and older.

The new guidelines for younger children are based on a systematic review of scientific evidence in published studies regarding the health benefits of physical activity, sleep and limiting time spent staring at screens among infants and young children.

"A panel of experts looks at the evidence and proposes recommendations," Willumsen said.

"We felt it was really important to bring the new evidence together and produce these guidelines to help policymakers, people who are establishing policies for early child care or who are advising parents and caregivers," she said. "We see that childhood obesity rates are rising dramatically, and it's ever more evident that prevention needs to start early."

The new guidelines note that improving physical activity and sleep among young children while limiting sedentary behaviors is associated with reduced adiposity, or body fat.

Overweight and obese children are likely to remain overweight and obese into adulthood, which puts them at risk of developing noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, according to WHO.

If your child is less than a year old

For infants younger than 1, WHO recommends that they be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, with floor-based play and at least 30 minutes of tummy time.

The guidelines also recommend that infants not to be restrained -- such as in a stroller, in a high chair or on a caregiver's back -- for more than an hour at a time.

When an infant happens to be spending too much time seated, WHO recommends engaging in reading or storytelling with a caregiver -- and screen time is not recommended for this age group.

In these guidelines, screen time refers to passively watching entertainment on a screen, such as on a television, computer or mobile device.

WHO also recommends that infants 3 months or younger to get 14 to 17 hours of quality sleep a day, including naps. Those aged 4 to 11 months should get 12 to 16 hours.

If your child is 1 to 2 years old

Children aged 1 to 2 also should get plenty of quality sleep every day: between 11 and 14 hours, including naps, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines also recommend that these children spend at least 180 minutes a day in a variety of physical activities.

"Physical activity has the greatest impact, and the recommendation for 180 minutes of physical activity for children over 1 of year of age is really a return to active play. We're not recommending structured exercise," Willumsen said.

"It's really about ensuring that children have that opportunity for active play," she said. "It's the way that children learn."

Children in this age group should not be restrained for more than an hour at a time, according to the guidelines. Screen time is not recommended for 1-year-olds, and the guidelines recommend that it be limited to one hour a day for 2-year-olds.

If your child is 3 to 4 years old

Screen time should be limited to one hour a day for 3- to 4-year-olds as well, according to the guidelines.

WHO also recommends that these children get 10 to 13 hours of quality sleep each day, which may include a nap.

The guidelines recommend for children in this age group to spend at least 180 minutes a day in a variety of physical activities, with at least 60 of those minutes involving moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activities such as games outdoors that require frequent running or jumping.

How to turn these recommendations into reality

The new guidelines are "straightforward" and "give parents some parameters to follow when it comes to sleep, physical activity and limiting screen time," said Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, who was not involved in the WHO guidelines.

The guidelines are comparable to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. For example, the academy similarly recommends to avoid digital media use for children younger than 24 months and to limit screen time to an hour a day for children 2 to 5.

"Too often, I see tired, overscheduled kids who eat on the run during the week and become sedentary on weekends because they are exhausted. These guidelines are a good reminder of how to stay healthy for the long term," said Shu, co-author of the book "Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality."

"Keep these guidelines in mind when planning your child's daily routine. Make sleep and physical activity a priority," she said. "By working on those aspects first, screen time and sedentary behaviors should naturally stay fairly low."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 4185

Reported Deaths: 153
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah114259
Marion94925
Washington73417
Clackamas30611
Deschutes1240
Umatilla1163
Linn1159
Polk9812
Lane693
Yamhill697
Jackson650
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath440
Malheur320
Coos310
Jefferson300
Douglas270
Wasco231
Josephine231
Hood River160
Columbia160
Lincoln120
Morrow110
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 109895

Reported Deaths: 4144
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles537462339
Riverside7486323
San Diego7385269
Orange6100146
San Bernardino5200204
Alameda328995
Santa Clara2731141
San Francisco253241
Kern214538
San Mateo210484
Tulare184484
Fresno171435
Santa Barbara164912
Imperial163427
Contra Costa142637
Sacramento140056
Ventura107833
San Joaquin85834
Kings7353
Stanislaus69928
Sonoma5484
Solano51722
Monterey50910
Marin45014
Merced2837
San Luis Obispo2691
Placer2149
Santa Cruz2122
Yolo21024
Napa1123
Madera1042
Humboldt993
El Dorado900
San Benito872
Del Norte450
Butte440
Sutter432
Nevada411
Shasta374
Mono351
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake210
Inyo201
Mariposa161
Glenn160
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou70
Colusa50
Lassen50
Tuolumne40
Tehama41
Plumas40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Medford
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Brookings
Few Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Crater Lake
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 52°
Grants Pass
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 55°
Klamath Falls
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Few showers Sunday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events