July 18, 2016


Traditionally, research examining the health implications of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep among children and youth has been conducted in movement behaviour silos, even though these behaviours do not occur in isolation of each other and have intuitive and empirical interactions.

A body of research indicates that an integrated or holistic approach is more effective in changing behaviour resulting in a larger impact on health indicators, compared to an approach that only focuses on individual risk factors. Feedback from Canadian pediatricians, our knowledge user colleagues, and our expert international collaborators indicates that evidence-informed 24-hour guidelines that integrate physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep are needed and preferred over separate guides in order to enhance the promotion of healthy active lifestyles among children and youth across Canada.

History and Background

Previously, there were separate guidelines for physical activity and for sedentary behaviour: the

  • Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children (5-11 years) and Youth (12-17 years) and
  • Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children (5-11 years) and Youth (12-17 years)

While CSEP has not formerly developed guidelines for sleep, guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation (USA) were available to Canadians.Current physical activity guidelines recommend children accumulate 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day. Current sedentary behaviour guidelines suggest reducing overall time spent sedentary and limiting screen time to no more than 2 hours per day. However, these guidelines provide standalone messages and do not take into consideration other important movement behaviours that occur throughout the day. Having a good night’s sleep and engaging in light physical activity (LPA) such as playing quietly certainly contribute to overall health and should not be ignored.

There is accumulating evidence that these behaviours (i.e. physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep) interact and moderate the health impacts of each other.  For example, the health benefits of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can be mitigated if children have poor sleep habits and/or engage in excessive sedentary behaviour.  Separate guidelines imply no interrelationship between these behaviours, which is now known to be inaccurate.

Therefore the new guidelines integrate (not segregate) these movement behaviours.  This novel, holistic approach incorporates all movement behaviours from sleep and sedentary behaviours (i.e., no/low movement) to vigorous-intensity physical activity (i.e., high movement) into a single guideline that spans the 24-hour period, in agreement with the best available evidence.

Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism special supplement

Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth: An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep