New WHO guidelines on physical activity, sleep and screen time for under 5s


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has published new guidelines on physical activity, sleep and sedentary behaviour for young children, and says under five-year-olds should be spending less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play. 

Failure to meet current physical activity recommendations is believed to be responsible for more than five million deaths globally annually across all age groups, with the WHO saying if healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep habits are established early in life, this helps shape habits through childhood and into adulthood.

The guidelines recommend that children aged one to four years spend at least 180 minutes engaged in physical activities. Sedentary screen time should be limited to no more than one hour for two- to four-year-olds and is not recommended for children aged one year and younger. A minimum of 10 hours quality sleep is recommended for three- to four-year-olds. 

“What we really need to do is bring back play for children,” says Dr Juana Willumsen, WHO focal point for childhood obesity and physical activity. “This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep."