Healthy Schools

Reduce Sedentary Behaviour: Sit Less, Move More

Children and youth sit a lot throughout their day, about 7.6 and 9.3 hours daily respectively. Too much sitting (or sedentary behaviour) has been linked with poor academic achievement, decreased mental well-being, social behaviour problems, and poor physical health. Even if children are physically active, high levels of sitting can put them at risk. Schools and school communities can play an important role in helping students reduce prolonged periods of sitting. 

Resources for Sedentary Behaviour Reduction

See ideas and resources below that support sedentary behaviour reduction

  • Role model breaking up prolonged sitting in the classroom, and at student or staff meetings.
  • Incorporate standing and/or movement during school assemblies.
  • Create a school policy around sitting (sedentary behaviour) reduction.  
  • Allow students to stand as needed during school meetings such as clubs or student council.
  • Share sedentary behaviour reduction successes within your school and beyond to motivate others to get involved. 
  • Have students do an assessment/audit of places students sit at school (such as classrooms, hallways, playground, cafeteria, office) or on the way to school (such as travelling by car) to develop an idea of how prevalent the issue is and in which locations.
  • Challenge students to come up with solutions to encourage their friends, educators, and family to sit less and move more.  What changes could be made within the school environment? 
  • Support students to come up with fun, simple activity breaks (breaks from sitting) for classroom time.
  • Allow students to stand as needed as long as they are not disrupting others (stand at the back)
  • Incorporate sit/stand desks and tables into the classroom.
  • Provide physical activity equipment, playground markings, and playground zones at recess, intramurals, and before and after school.
  • Try to limit indoor recess. If indoor recesses are necessary, plan ahead to allow students to move in the classroom, gym, or another space within the school.  Consider novel mediums to get kids moving during these times such as active movement videos via smart boards if space is restricted. 
  • Incorporate active breaks or active curriculum regularly during sedentary curriculum time.
  • When appropriate, take your class outdoors for their lesson.
  • Create a clothing bank with extra mitts, hats, and boots for those students who come unprepared to be outside for recess, intramurals, or Physical Education class.
  • Share information about reducing sedentary behaviour through the school website, newsletter, at a parent council meeting or parent engagement event. 
  • Encourage families to review and adhere to the Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines in the Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth. 
  • Challenge families to think about the time they spend being sedentary (screen time and other) and brainstorm ways to gradually reduce it in the home and community. 
  • Encourage families to let their children walk, bike, or wheel to school, the library, the recreation centre, or a friend’s house rather than be driven by car.  For Active and Sustainable School Travel (ASST) resources and support, visit the Smart Commute Hamilton Schools website.
  • Remind parents to ensure students come prepared with appropriate clothing for the weather to fully participate in outdoor physical activity opportunities such as recess, intramurals, and Physical Education classes. 
  • Contact a Physical Activity Specialist or Public Health Nurse by emailing [email protected] for help and advice on reducing sedentary behaviour in schools.