Sit less and move more

Issue: Volume 96, Number 9

Posted: 29 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7t

Physical activity can help people live longer, healthier lives. The New Zealand Physical Activity Guidelines outline the minimum levels of physical activity required to gain health benefits and ways to incorporate incidental physical activity into everyday life.

Sit less, move more, sleep well

The Ministries of Health and Education together with Sport New Zealand have released new Physical Activity Guidelines for children and young people (five to 17 years). The new guidelines include recommendations for sleep.

Up to one in four New Zealand children aged five-13 years, and one in five teenagers (14-17 years) may not be getting enough sleep (NZ Health Survey 2013/14).

Why is sleep important?

Children who do not get enough sleep can be hyperactive, impulsive and have a short attention span. They are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity and problem solving, and generally score lower on IQ tests. A short sleep duration could produce adverse hormonal changes like those potentially associated with obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

A Canadian study found that children aged 10-12 years who slept the least on school nights were significantly less active and more sedentary than those who slept most. Additionally, children with higher physical activity levels are less likely to be sleepy during the daytime.

What can schools consider doing to support children getting sufficient sleep?

  • Time spent outdoors such as through active play or active transport increases exposure to sunlight, which helps regulate sleep patterns.
  • Physical activity helps children fall asleep faster. A study found that secondary school students who did at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day were 41 percent more likely to get sufficient sleep than those who do not.
  • Schools can consider homework demands, and extra-curricular commitments to ensure that it is spread throughout the week rather than all on one night.
  • Encourage children to be active during the day.
  • Promote good sleep tips(external link) to students including over exam periods
  • Encourage students to keep a record of their bedtime and wake up times for a week and use it for a class exercise on sleep.

How else could schools support the guidelines?

Break up sitting time and, through flexible learning environments, provide opportunities for children to stand while working/learning.

Encourage staff to be active and act as role models for students.

A healthy 24 hours for children and young people

This should include:

  • uninterrupted good-quality sleep of nine to 11 hours per night (for those aged five to 13 years) and eight to 10 hours per night (for those aged 14 to 17 years), with consistent bed and wake-up times
  • an accumulation of at least one hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities, and activities that strengthen muscle and bones should also be incorporated at least three days a week
  • no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time
  • breaking up sitting time and participating in a variety of light physical activities for several hours.

More information is available on the Ministry of Health website(external link)

The updated guidelines and statements above are in line with the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, which were released in 2016 and are based on their systematic evidence reviews. The Canadian guidelines and the full background report they are based on is available online(external link)

New physical activity guidelines for 0-5 year-olds will be released later this month.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:39 pm, 29 May 2017

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