Canadians kids are getting too much screen time and not enough exercise and that’s making it hard for them to get a good night’s sleep.

Those are the findings from the latest ParticipACTION report card, which once again finds that the vast majority of kids are not getting the heart-pumping exercise they need every day to stay healthy.

So for the first time, the ParticipACTION researchers are releasing new guidelines to outline what a healthy 24-hour period should look like for young people. They call for:

  • at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
  • no more than two hours a day of recreational screen time, limited sitting for extended periods
  • at least 9-11 hours of sleep per night for children 5-13 years
  • at least 8-10 hours for those aged 14-17 years.

The research found that the average Canadian kid is not meeting those guidelines.

Kids between the ages of five and 17 spend an average of 8.5 hours sedentary every day. And every hour those kids spend being sedentary delays their bedtime by three minutes.

The report card also found:

  • 31 per cent of school-aged kids and 26 per cent of teens in Canada are sleep-deprived;
  • 33 per cent of Canadian children aged five to 13, and 45 per cent of youth aged 14 to 17 have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least some of the time;
  • 36 per cent of 14 to 17-year-olds find it difficult to stay awake during the day

When it comes to physical activity:

  • Only nine per cent of Canadian kids aged five to 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity each day;
  • Only 24 per cent of young people aged five to 17 meet the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommendation of no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day.

Dr. Mark Tremblay, the chief scientific officer for the ParticipACTION report card and director of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, says kids get into a “vicious cycle” of inactivity.

They don’t get enough exercise during the day, stay on screens too late at night, and then wake up too tired to get exercise the next day.

“We’re trying to turn that vicious cycle into a virtuous one, so we get kids moving during the day, they’re tired, they sleep well, they wake up refreshed and that negative cycle is reversed,” he told CTV News Channel Thursday.

Lack of sleep can cause hyperactivity, lower IQ scores, and produce hormonal changes that are associated with an increased risk for obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

As well, chronic sleep loss is linked to higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts, the report card says.

Research shows that physical activity is one of the best sleep aids, but according to the report, the problem is most children aren't getting enough exercise.

"Kids who are tired out from running around sleep better, and those who have slept well have more energy to run around," the report card says.

"Society is starting to pay attention to the fact that the reverse is also true and troubling: kids aren't moving enough to be tired, and they may also be too tired to move."

24-hour movement guideline

In response to the research, the ParticipACTION Report Card has created new guidelines that outline what a healthy 24-hour period should look like for children and youth, in terms of balancing physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep. The new guidelines are relevant to healthy children and youth aged five to 17.

The 24 Hour Movement Guidelines calls for the following:

-At least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. Muscle and bone strengthening activities should be incorporated at least three days per week;

-Several hours of light physical activities;

-No more than two hours of recreational screen time a day;

-Limit sitting for extended periods;

-At least nine to 11 hours of sleep per night for children aged five to 13, and between eight to 10 hours of sleep per night for young people aged 14 to 17.

The report card says, to stem the "creeping sleepidemic," children need to get outdoors and off the couch to get their hearts pumping.

"It's time for a wake-up call. If Canadian kids sit less and move more, we will all sleep better."


(Graphic courtesy 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card)