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  • Gen Health Team

Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines in Children

Physical Activity Guidelines are often in the headlines, and everyone is well aware that they should be striving to “Find 30” every day. What we might not have heard so much about is that Find 30 does not apply to everyone – especially when it comes to children.

There is a lot of information out there about what kids should and shouldn’t be doing, and it can be confusing!

Simply put everyone should be aiming to be more physically active in their days and limiting their sedentary activities. Our bodies are made to move – And they love to move!

The Australian Department of Health has released guidelines on the recommended levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour from the age of 0 – throughout the rest of the lifespan.

According to these guidelines, children need the following:

Birth to 1 year: moving on the floor from birth (tummy time)

1 to 5 years: at least 3 hours of being physically active, spread throughout the day

5 to 12 years: at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

This should include a variety of aerobic activities as well as activities that strengthen muscle and bone.

Children should also limit the amount of time they spend sitting, and those aged over 5 should spend no more than 2 hours a day in front of a screen. This recommended maximum screen time drops to 1 hour for children aged 2 to 5, with no screen time at all recommended for children under 2.

This might all be news to you and leave you thinking – what can I do to support my children to be more physically active and participate in less sedentary screen time?

Lets tackle the first part of this solution – what actually is Physical Activity? Is it exercise, or something else?

Physical Activity is defined as any movement of your body that works your muscles and requires more energy than when at rest. (Exercise is a structured form of physical activity).

So essentially physical activity for children is active play – anything from using building blocks and lego, imaginative role play games, to ball sports in the backyard.

When you think about it this way there are endless possibilities in how to support your children to be more physically active (the limit is literally your children’s imaginations), that don’t require transport, uniforms, scheduling or fees. As play or physical activity can be done anywhere, anytime and a lot of the time for free.

Some simple ideas to help encourage more physical activity during your child’s day include

  • choose activities your child likes and that are fun

  • make sure there's lots of variety and your child tries different things

  • build physical activity into your child's day – for example, by walking to school, washing the car or helping in the garden

  • reward your child with an activity like a visit to the park rather than with screen time

  • praise and encourage your child

  • be active yourself and involve the whole family


For further information and a copy of the full guidelines please go to http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

For more ideas on how you could reduce your screen and sedentary time and to improve your family’s physical activity levels check out the “Make your Move” resource found at the above website.

Please note: These guidelines may be appropriate for young children with a disability or medical condition; however, if you are unsure or would like some assistance with play options and modifications it may be a good idea to consult a Health Care Professional such as a Physiotherapist with an interest in paediatrics for assistance in safe activity choice and movement optimisation.