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Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health comment on WHO physical activity guidelines

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has responded to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new guidelines on the physical activity of children under the age of five, counselling caution.

The WHO’s guidelines were released on 24 April 2019, and state that to grow up healthy “children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play”.

The guidelines are divided into those for children less than a year old, children 1 to 2 years old, and children three to four years old. They provide guidance for each on how long they should spend being physically active each day, how long they should be sedentary, and how much sleep they require.

The RCPCH welcomed the WHO’s focus on these health issues, but cautioned that the guidelines taken alone without appropriate support for families could discourage parents.

RCPCH questioned whether the evidence for setting screen time limits was strong enough, and said that barriers to physical activity were more complex than the WHO suggested. Barriers could include housing, work patterns, family stress and lack of access to play spaces as opposed to choosing to be sedentary, said RCPCH.

You can read the WHO’s guidelines on physical activity for under-fives here, and the RCPCH’s response here.