Active Minutes

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by Don Zabloski

While attending weekly toddler Sportball sessions with my son and young granddaughter, I have witnessed the positive relationship between age-appropriate exercise and an overall sense of well-being. As parents follow, direct and guide their children around the gym to attempt various physical literacy challenges, they are experiencing positive mood swings evident in their bright and happy facial expressions. Not to be outmatched, the children openly demonstrate their joy for chasing balls, spinning hula hoops and manipulating bean bags at their personal pace. Spirits have also been lifted for those of us on the sidelines, in the roles of enthusiastic cheerleaders and picture takers.

Moments like this illustrate that positive healthy choices in exercise and nutrition are truly a family affair. The roles of participant, supporter or cheerleader may change due to circumstance; however, we can all appreciate the healthy outcomes. Being active and eating well will benefit family members of all ages as they deal with stressors at home, school, work and in the community. Our prescription for a positive sense of well-being every day is a balance of healthy choices, to the best of our abilities.

When planning your healthy family menu, please continue to be guided by the excellent advice shared in this magazine by our experienced nutrition contributors, Tara Postnikoff and Lisa Podlecki. You can also visit the Canada Food Guide resource website for more information.

Active kids are happy kids. The benefits of participating in seasonal sports and activities include healthy growth and development, enhanced learning and thinking, improved motor development, higher fitness levels, increased quality of life, and plenty of fun experiences. As you plan your kids’ structured and unstructured active time, the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines are a valuable tool. Developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, these guidelines indicate the optimal amount of movement for children and youth within a 24-hour period. The goal is to achieve a healthy balance between moving, sleeping and sitting activities. A quick summary for ages 0 to 17 is below; for more details, visit csepguidelines.ca.

Infants (less than 1 year)

> Move – 30 cumulative minutes of floor-based play; practise reaching, crawling, grasping

> Sleep – 12 to 17 hours of good quality sleep and naps

> Sit – should not be restrained (i.e. in stroller) for more than 1 hour at a time; no screen time

Toddlers (1 to 2 years)

> Move – 180 minutes per day, variety of activities (i.e. running, dancing, playing outside), varied intensity

> Sleep – 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep and naps

> Sit – should not be restrained (i.e. in high chair) for more than 1 hour; screen time not recommended before age 2; sitting is appropriate during reading/story time with caregiver

Preschoolers (3 to 4 years)

> Move – 180 minutes per day, 60 of these minutes reflective of energetic play (i.e. brisk walking, running, swimming, climbing)

> Sleep – 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep and naps

> Sit – should not being restrained (i.e. in car seat) for more than 1 hour; screen time of 1 hour or less

Children and Youth (5 to 17 years)

> Move – 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day; also several hours per day of “light” physical activities (i.e. walking, household chores)

> Sleep – 9 to 11 hours for ages 5 to 13; 8 to 10 hours for ages 14-17, with consistent bedtime and wake-up times

> Sit – limit sitting for extended periods; no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time

A reminder that these guidelines are the minimum requirements to experience health benefits, and that allocating more time to age-appropriate physical movement experiences will result in enhanced benefits. As needed, seek experienced assistance from your family doctor, a certified coach, or registered dietitian to ensure that your family practices are healthy and sustainable.


Don Zabloski is a retired Physical Education and Health Consultant and the co-author of Running Room’s Book on Family Fitness with John Stanton.

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