Breaking Bad….Sedentary Habits

This weeks blog is inspired by the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.   From Curling to Alpine skiing, seeing Athletes achieve their goals and have fun along the way can inspire the next UK generations to participate in sport and activities they enjoy! In this weeks blog we’ll be discussing how you as early years practitioners can encourage children to move more, sit less, and most importantly have fun!

What is Sedentary behaviour

Sedentary behaviour is considered any activity or pastime which does not require much physical effort  and uses minimal  energy.  In general, when children or adults are doing activities sitting or laying down (when awake), such as playing computer games or watching the TV, it’s classed as sedentary.

Sedentary behaviours are undertaken in a range of settings, including school, home, travel, and in leisure time, and include screen-time, motorised transport, and sitting to read, talk, do homework, or listen to music.

Health Consequences of Sedentary Behaviour

There is some evidence to suggest a link between sedentary behaviour and lower cognitive development among children in their early years. If children are inactive and spend long periods being sedentary it increased the likelihood of them being inactive in their adult years.

child undercover playing a game

Sedentary behaviour can increase both children and adults risk of becoming overweight or obese. However the full effects of sedentary behaviour is relatively unknown and more research is required in order to fully understand the negative impact it can have on our health. That being said, there is overwhelming evidence highlighted the health benefits when we move more.  These include, up to 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and strokes, up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes and up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer and more.  For more evidenced based information on the health benefits of physical activity for families visit: or book our Tier 1 Physical Activity Guidelines training.

Family having a walk

How long do children in the UK spend being inactive?

On average, UK children spend a reported total of 24 hours of screen time-  per week!

This indicates that a number of children across the UK are exceeding,  the recommended maximum screen time.

0-2 years= 30 minutes

3-5 years= 60 minutes

6 years and over= 2 hours

(National Literacy Trust Uk, 2009).

Further to this, the Health Survey for England highlighted, that when families aren’t at work/school, Sedentary behaviour is increased- even on weekends!  During weekdays,  fewer than 10% of children under 10 are sedentary for six hours or more.  However this significantly increases at the weekend. It suggests that during leisure time families are not generally choosing activities that get them up and moving.

How can we increase physical activity?

The good news is, there’s lots of ways we can encourage children to move more and sit less! Before we looks at our top tips lets look at how we can change sedentary habits among  children…

Studies show that children copy behaviours, therefore it’s important for adults to role model. Taking part in fun physical activities with children can really encourage them to get involved and move more.  A ‘family approach’ is one of the most effective ways to achieve this.

Tips to encourage children to move more and sit less

It’s important for us to know what the physical activity guidelines are for children under 5.

  • Children of pre-school age (who are capable of walking) should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (3 hours) spread throughout the day.
  • Children aged 5 – to 18 years of age are recommended to  engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day. Vigorous intensity activities is those that strengthen muscle and bone, this should be incorporated at least 3 days a week.  For more information, including adult guidelines visit NHS Choices.

With these government recommendations in mind, here are the Wellbeing and Nutrition Team’s top tips to get children moving more as a family:

  • Leave the car at home when doing short trips. Try walking or biking instead!
  • If going on longer journeys, allow extra time and take regular breaks so everyone can stretch their legs and move around
  • While the highchair is great for mealtimes it’s important to take children out after so they are encouraged to move around
  • Turn off the TV as it will encourage children to play.
  • Children love to copy adults, so remember you’re their role model! Try doing an activity together using ideas from Change4Life.

Other top tips to get children moving more within early years settings include:

  • Use story or rhyme time as an opportunity to act out  actions from the story using physical movements, encouraging children to copy and move around.
  • Organise a sports or physical activity  event encouraging both parents and children to take part within your setting, this could be walk to Nursery day or a sports day.
  • Plan a nature trail or outdoor event, encouraging families and children to walk, explore and retrieve parts of nature such as flowers or leaves whilst having fun.

Visit 10 minutes shape ups or Visit or Instagram Page @earlystartnutrition for  family activity posts.

Don’t forget to leave us a comment and tell us your favourite tips or any topic suggestions for our next blog!

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