Sedentary Behaviours are activities that involve low energy expenditure while sitting or lying down during waking hours. Children and youth are sedentary a lot throughout their day, which 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 sedentary behaviour can put them at risk. Schools can play an important role in helping all students reduce and disrupt sedentary time.
- Promote the Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth for students, educators and families to learn more about sedentary behaviour. Please note that while the term ‘sit’ is used to refer to sedentary behaviour, it does not reflect everyone’s ability or interests. Interrupting sedentary behaviour can include seated activities like seated yoga and wheelchair dance.
- Review the sedentary behaviours information in the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Read the full report.
- Provide Daily Physical Activity (DPA) in blocks as little as five minutes throughout the day for students in grades 1 through 8 to break up sedentary behaviour.
- Disrupt periods of extended sedentary behaviour with both scheduled and unscheduled movement by following the International School-Related Sedentary Behaviour Recommendations:
- At least once every 30 minutes for ages 5-11 years.
- At least once every hour for ages 12-18 years.
- This could be accomplished through active breaks (breaks from learning) or by adding movement into learning (active curriculum).
- Review the International Recommendations for School-Related Sedentary Behaviours educational video to gain a better understanding of the issue and how schools can play a role.
- Role model disrupting sedentary behaviour in the classroom, and at student or staff meetings.
- Incorporate standing and/or movement during school assemblies.
- Create a school or classroom policy around sedentary behaviour allowing students to stand or move as needed.
- Allow students to stand or move as able/needed during school meetings such as clubs or student council.
- Share your successes on reducing sedentary behaviour within your school and beyond to motivate others to get involved.
- Encourage students to create and share messaging about sedentary behaviour and its effects to increase awareness amongst the school community.
- Have students conduct an assessment/audit of places students and staff are sedentary 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.
- Challenge students to come up with solutions to encourage their friends, educators, and family to interrupt sedentary behaviour and move more. What changes could be made within the school environment and how they get to school?
- Support students to come up with fun, simple movement activity breaks for classroom time.
- Allow students to stand/move as able/needed as long as they are not disrupting others
- Incorporate height adjustable desks and tables or risers into the classroom, where possible as an option for students to use.
- Provide physical activity equipment, playground markings, green spaces and playground zones at recess, intramurals, and before and after school for student use.
- Replace sedentary learning activities with movement-based learning activities (active curriculum) or take periodic breaks from learning (active breaks).
- Consider taking your class outside for lessons.
- Limit indoor recess. If indoor recess is necessary, plan ahead to allow students to move in the classroom, gym, learning commons, or another space within the school. Consider novel mediums to get kids moving during these times such as active movement videos using smart boards if space is restricted.
- Create a clothing bank with extra mitts, hats, and boots for those students who are in need of them to participate outside for recess, intramurals, or Physical Education class.
- Share information about the importance of reducing sedentary behaviour through the school website, newsletter, at a parent council meeting or parent engagement event.
- Encourage families to review and work towards achieving the Sedentary Behaviour recommendations in the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines
- Ask 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.
- Incorporate different types of movement (e.g., light activities that require movement of any body parts, and moderate to vigorous activities that require greater physical effort) into homework, whenever possible, and limit sedentary homework to no more than 10 minutes per day, per grade level. Encourage families to supporttheir children to 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, please see our Active and Sustainable School Travel program for more details.
- Remind parents/guardians to send students to school 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 by emailing [email protected] for help and advice on reducing sedentary behaviour in schools and active school travel
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