Evidence-based guidelines for sedentary behaviour


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


I’ve written a few times recently about the newly emerging dangers of sitting too much (as opposed to exercising too little). Today, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology announced the release of the first-ever guidelines for sedentary behaviour for children and youth. How bad is the problem?

“Canadian children and youth spend sixty-two per cent of their waking hours in sedentary pursuits, with six to eight hours per day of screen time as the average for school-aged kids,” said Dr. Mark Tremblay, Director, Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute.

There are still no precise answers (yet) to questions like how many hours you can stay motionless before damaging changes in your muscles begin. But the guidelines do a nice job of setting reasonable goals and providing common-sense strategies for keeping kids from spending too long in a zombiefied state — even if, much like the companion guidelines for physical activity, the goals are likely to be somewhat aspirational for many parents. Goals like “Indoors, help children and youth stay active by having them help with meal preparation and other household chores” are well-meaning. But really, if parents aren’t already doing that, it’s probably not just because they didn’t know it was a good idea.

Anyway, the guidelines for children aged 5-11 are available here, and for youth aged 12-17 here. Take a look at them, even if you’re an adult — it might give you some good ideas.