Children under five years of age need to spend less time sitting and watching screens, spend more time playing actively and get quality sleep if they are to grow up healthily, according to new guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Failure to meet current physical activity recommendations is responsible for more than five million deaths globally each year across all age groups and establishing good habits early in life can help to address this, WHO says.
The application of these guidelines during the first five years of life will contribute to children’s motor and cognitive development; improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing; and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life, WHO adds.
Max Davie, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s officer for health improvement, welcomed WHO’s guidelines, saying that they “serve as useful benchmarks to help steer families towards active and healthy lifestyles”. However, he commented: “While it is important for children to be as active as possible, the barriers are more frequently to do with housing, work patterns, family stress, and lack of access to play spaces rather than actively choosing to be sedentary.”