When it comes to our children, we want to give them every opportunity, advantage, and benefit that we can muster. Around this time of year, we make resolutions and promises to ourselves pertaining to the year to come, and this provides an excellent opportunity to set goals which benefit our health and the healthy development of our young Canadians. A lot of that aspiration for greatness disappears in the day-to-day struggle though, as we get mired in our hectic schedules and responsibilities.
Somewhere between working, preparing meals, and being chauffeur, we often lose the detail orientation required to give our kids the best opportunities for growth and achievement. Such simple details as 'getting enough sleep', or 'eating a balanced diet', can be lost in the hustle-bustle of our lives. The best thing we can do to prepare the next generation for the challenges ahead is to occasionally refocus on the details that will contribute toward their healthy development. One great starting point is to make up tomorrow's schedule every evening, and this can be extended to week or month ahead planning! With the New Year comes an opportunity to reflect on our choices from the past year, and a chance to set new goals!
Remember 'BodyBreak'? Many of us remember Hal Johnson and Joanne MacLeod (commonly referred to as Canada's Healthiest Couple) from their commercials or their entire series of video workouts on DVD, but what many people didn't know is that 'BodyBreak' was funded in part by the Canadian ParticipACTION program. It was the early 70's when ParticipACTION started to catch the attention of the masses, and a commercial which aired in 1973 (well before BodyBreak) brought discussion on the issue of physical fitness to dinner tables across the country. The call to action caused Canadians across the nation to collectively sit up and pay attention, their interest in exercise piqued.
Over the next 30 years, the ParticipACTION program encouraged Canadians of all ages to pursue a physically active lifestyle, and in addition, it currently provides Canadians with an annual "Report Card" on the physical fitness of Canadian children and youth. The report card explains results of polls and peer reviewed research articles that shed light on how physically fit our children are (across 12 different categories), and what we can do to improve these results! The report is the first in the world to assign a grade or score for sleep, and carefully analyzes the physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep our children get every day.
The major struggle facing Canadian children today is identified in the report as a 'sleepidemic'; our children are typically sleeping 30-60 minutes less than previous decades. Not only are they short-changed on sleep, but because they are not spending enough time being physically active during the day to feel tired, the quality of sleep our children do get at night is greatly diminished. The study reports that 31% of Canadian school-aged children and over 1/4 of all adolescents are sleep-deprived.
The solution to this growing problem is presented in the new 'Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines', which explains how much time our children should sweat, step, sleep, and sit for, every day. If we do our best to adopt an active lifestyle, one high in physical activity and low in sedentary behaviour, we will sleep more soundly and reap more of the benefits from sleep.
The ideal schedule is different for everyone, but the recommendations are universal, and are based on the demands of a growing body from roughly 5-17 years of age.
Sweat: Children should enjoy a minimum of one hour of moderate to rigorous physical activity per day, with at least three days per week being rigorously (producing heavy sweating, panting, feelings of fatigue) active. These heavily demanding activities can be individual or group sports and games, and should be enjoyable even when challenging.
Step: Several hours of every child's day should be made up of light physical activity, this can be structured like in sports or activities, or unstructured like taking the dog for a walk. Several hours of light activity means approximately two-five hours spent moving and doing activities that won't cause sweating or panting.
Sleep: The report recommends nine-eleven uninterrupted hours of sleep every night for 5-13 year old children, and adolescents 14-17 years should get eight-ten uninterrupted hours. Something to strive for is consistency - a growing body benefits from the structure of routine. Quality of sleep improves when we retire and rise at the same time each day.
Sit: These are activities requiring little or no movement; like watching television and playing computer games, but there are many other periods of sitting built into a child’s day already. For example, the majority of our elementary and secondary school curriculum is designed for a classroom of students seated at desks. While some desk work is unavoidable, many of our brightest teachers are remodeling their curriculum to encourage more movement in the classroom, with fewer lengthy periods of sitting. The guidelines for sedentary behaviour recommends a daily maximum limit of two hours of "recreational screen time", since we already spend so many hours sitting for school or work. As screen time becomes more and more integrated into the activities of daily life, we will likely see changes to this recommendation. We have to focus on keeping moving, even during our screen time.
Now that we have armed ourselves with information, it's time to put it to good use! Try and set reasonable, attainable goals for you and your children for the new year. During this time of reflection and resolution, design the 2018 that fits your lifestyle, and then live it!