The creation of UK Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for the Early Years.

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We have noted the recent open letter sent by Jana Partners LLC and CALSTRS to technology giant, Apple, asking they take the lead in introducing parental controls your young children on electronic devices. With the benefit of our own experience of working with many thousands of young children across the globe we must also stress the dangers of iPhone Addiction.  
 There is no doubt that through technology that Apple Inc. was at the forefront of developing, the world is now much more accessible for all, and there have been great strides in the efficiency of most things.

However in today’s new more connected world there are many trends such as obesity, mental health and the current digital age of tablets and computers, which mean young children are often starting school underdeveloped physically, emotionally and mentally, it is of paramount importance that we ensure the next generation are kept active and kept engaged on the right things whilst they are in their formative years.

Despite the introduction of physical activity guidelines in the UK in 2011 that recommended children in the early years should engage in 180 minutes of physical activity a day, recent statistics (2015) show that 79% of boys and 84% of girls in England are failing to achieve this. Likewise, research has shown that many children are starting school with lower levels of physical development than they would have done 10 years ago. The impact of these two findings on children’s health and academic outcomes are clearly of concern. Growing research is, however, contributing to our understanding of the importance of a non-sedentary lifestyle and the potential that this has to improve our overall health and well-being. We are, therefore, calling for the publication of 'sedentary behaviour guidelines' as one way of helping to alleviate the problems identified above as well as, hopefully, decreasing the amount of time our youngest children spend engaging in sedentary behaviours, some of which may present additional detrimental outcomes.

Researchers we have worked with, including Dr Rebecca Duncombe from the University of Loughborough said the increase was partly a result of modern children being less active in their early years compared with previous decades, with typical movements associated with play and development reduced by the introduction of electronic toys and screens.

The tests suggest up to 30 per cent of children are starting school with symptoms typically associated with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD – conditions which can be improved with the correct levels of physical activity, experts say.

Dr Rebecca Duncombe,,said the lack of physical ability shown demonstrated that children are not as active as they should be in the beginning of their lives.

“A child’s physical development level impacts their ability to complete simple tasks such as sitting still, holding a pencil, putting on their shoes, and especially reading – all skills essential for school,” she said.

“Our research shows that not only are children starting school less physically ready than ever before, but that teachers are noticing this change and its impact in the classroom.”

Due to these trends, it is of vital importance that we look after the interests of the next generation of our country. I believe the government should look in to the lead taken by Canada in this field.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), with assistance from multiple partners, stakeholders, and researchers, developed the first Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for the Early Years (aged 0–4 years). These national guidelines are in response to a call from health and health care professionals, child care providers, and fitness practitioners for guidance on sedentary behaviour in the early years. The recommendations are informed by evidence from a systematic review that examined the relationships between sedentary behaviour (predominantly screen time) and health indicators (healthy body weight, bone and skeletal health, motor skill development, psychosocial health, cognitive development, and cardio-metabolic disease risk factors) for three age groups (infants aged <1 year; toddlers aged 1–2 years; pre-schoolers aged 3–4 years). The final guidelines benefitted from extensive on-line consultations with input from >900 domestic and international stakeholders, end-users, and key informants. The final guidelines state: for healthy growth and development, caregivers should minimize the time infants (aged <1 year), toddlers (aged 1–2 years), and pre-schoolers (aged 3–4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours. This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) for more than 1 h at a time. For those under 2 years, screen time (e.g., TV, computer, electronic games) is not recommended. For children 2–4 years, screen time should be limited to less than 1 h per day; less is better.


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