2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth

The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth asks, Are Canadian Kids Too Tired to Move? Emerging research, which spurred Canada to develop the world’s first 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, shows that physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep are closely interrelated.

Sleep deprivation has been identified as a problem for Canadian kids, along with the troubling findings that if “kids aren’t moving enough to be tired…they may also be too tired to move”.

The report identifies the following research findings:

  • Only 9% of Canadian kids aged 5 to 17 get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day.
  • Only 24% of 5- to 17-year-olds meet the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommendation of no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day.
  • In recent decades, children’s nightly sleep duration has decreased by about 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Every hour kids spend in sedentary activities delays their bedtime by 3 minutes. And the average 5- to 17-year-old Canadian spends 8.5 hours being sedentary each day.
  • 33% of Canadian children aged 5 to 13, and 45% of youth aged 14 to 17, have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least some of the time.
  • 36% of 14- to17-year-olds find it difficult to stay awake during the day.
  • 31% of school-aged kids and 26% of adolescents in Canada are sleep-deprived.

The findings show that “even kids who are meeting the minimum requirements for sleep duration are not necessarily getting good sleep. Increased screen time and packed schedules mean that kids are getting poor or inconsistent sleep – for instance, staying up late to do homework during the week, or watching TV in their bedrooms until midnight and then playing catch-up on the weekends.”

The report points out that some effects of sleep deprivation in children and adolescents are obvious and some are not so obvious:

  • Too little sleep can cause hyperactivity, impulsiveness and a short attention span.
  • Children with reduced sleep are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity and problem solving, and generally score lower on IQ tests.
  • A short sleep duration produces adverse hormonal changes like those associated with increased risks of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
  • Chronic sleep loss is linked to higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.

The positive findings highlighted by the report link “heart-pumping physical activity” and sleep:

  • Grade 5 students with higher physical activity levels are less likely to be sleepy during the daytime.
  • Active transportation (e.g. walking or biking) and outdoor play increase exposure to sunlight, which helps regulate sleep patterns.
  • Physical activity helps kids fall asleep faster.
  • High school students who get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day are 41% more likely to get sufficient sleep than those who don’t.

An important note made by the report is that “more activities don’t necessarily equal more physical activity….overscheduling can impact sleep by getting kids excited and pushing back dinnertime, homework time and bedtime”. As stated in the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, a healthy childhood requires a balance of physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep.

The movement guidelines recommend that, “for optimal health benefits, children and youth (aged 5-17 years) should achieve high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behavior, and sufficient sleep each day”. This includes four components:

  • SWEAT (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity): An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities, and muscle and bone strengthening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week.
  • STEP (Light Physical Activity): Several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities.
  • SLEEP: Uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for those aged 5-13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14-17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times.
  • SIT (Sedentary Behaviour): No more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time. Limited sitting for extended periods.

Download the full 76-page Participaction report, the Highlights Report, the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth and posters.