Less Screen Time, More Physical Activity FTW

by Jason Haug, Program and Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health 

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire (well the fireplace TV station on Channel 500-something) is so delightful. Netflix, time curled up on the couch texting with friends … and video games—they’re delightful too. With all these wonderful cozy delights of winter, it is no wonder the “frightful” weather sees less of us these days. 

You may have noticed there are fewer people out for nightly walks. You may also see fewer kids playing in the park. That’s cause for concern, because more indoor time often means more inactive time. According to the 2014 Ottawa Student Drug Use and Health Report, students spend more time sitting in front of a screen than they spend physically active. Most are not active enough for optimal growth and development.

In 2013, only 24 per cent of students achieved the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. That means three out of every four students are not meeting their daily physical activity needs. Why, you might ask? A lot of it has to do with too much screen time and not enough active time. Six in 10 students spend more than two hours a day watching TV or movies, playing video or computer games, chatting on a computer, emailing or surfing the net. 

How much screen time should I allow for my child?

The amount of screen time your child gets is up to you as a parent. To make this decision a bit easier, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) has put together recommendations based on scientific evidence. 

  • For children under age two, screen time is not recommended.
  • For children aged two to four, it should be limited to less than one hour per day. 
  • For children and youth aged five to 18, screen time outside of school hours should be limited to two hours per day. Studies show that less screen time is better. 

Some strategies to reduce your child’s screen time include:

  • Setting clear limits and rules about screen time. This will help your child to learn how to set boundaries. 
  • Keeping TVs, computers and smart phones out of bedrooms. 
  • Increasing active play, especially outdoors 

For children aged 18 months to five years, you can complete the NutriStep® screening tool to assess their nutrition and physical activity. Visit Ottawa.ca/NutriStep to find out more.

Is there a simple way for my child to stay active in the winter? 

One of the best ways for your child to increase his or her physical activity is by walking to school. It may sound simple, but walking to school can be a safe, convenient, healthy and fun way for children to travel to school with their friends. It also helps kids get the recommended minimum of 60 minutes per day of physical activity. Just remember to check weather forecasts and have your child dress for the weather. This includes a hat and gloves or mittens to prevent heat loss and protect ears and fingers from frostbite. A scarf (or neck warmer) will protect the chin, lips and cheeks—which are all sensitive to cold weather. Wearing clothes in layers is best for temperatures below -15 oC. This should include:

  • An inner layer (closest to the skin). It should have wicking properties to move any moisture away from the skin.
  • A middle layer. It should be the thicker layer to prevent loss of body heat while keeping the cold outside air away.
  • An outer layer. It should be the wind-breaking layer to reduce the chances of cold air reaching the insulating layer.

To find out more, visit ottawa.ca/health or call 613 580-6744 (TTY: 613 580-9656). You can also connect with OPH on Facebook (facebook.com/ottawahealth), Tumblr (ottawahealth.tumblr.com), Twitter (@OttawaHealth) and on Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/otthealthsante). 


This entry was posted in Health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.