May 21,

Sedentary Behaviour

Sedentary Behaviour

What is sedentary behaviour?

Sedentary behaviour is any activity that requires very little movement and is often done sitting or lying down. These activities include watching television, using a computer, sitting in a motor vehicle and playing passive video games.

Sedentary behaviour is associated with many negative health outcomes. All people are encouraged to “Sit less, Move more”. For many children this means to Unplug and Play”.


For the Early Years

For healthy growth and development, caregivers should minimize the time infants (aged less than 1 year), toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours. This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) for more than one hour at a time.

  • For those under 2 years, screen time (e.g., TV, computer, electronic games) is not recommended.
  • For children 2-4 years, screen time should be limited to under one hour per day; less is better.

For Children

For health benefits, children aged 5-11 should minimize the time they spend being sedentary each day. This may be achieved by:

  • Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day; lower levels are associated with additional health benefits.
  • Limit sedentary (motorized) transport, extended sitting and time spent indoors throughout the day.


Tips to help reduce sedentary time

For the early years:

  • Limit use of playpens and infant seats when baby is awake
  • Explore and play with your child
  • Stop during long car trips for playtime
  • Set limits and have rules about screen time
  • Keep TVs and computers out of bedrooms
  • Take children outside every day

For children:

  • Help children swap sedentary time with active time
    • Active transportation to/from school instead of driving
    • Active play in the after school period instead of TV/computer/video games
    • Active family time in the evening instead of TV/computer/video games
  • Place clear limits on watching TV. Try to restrict viewing to a half-hour per day or one hour every other evening. Explain your rules in positive concrete terms. Try replacing “You can’t watch TV” with “Let’s turn off the TV so we can…”

Check out Participaction’s new Make Room for Play campaign with videos and tips for parents.


Region of Waterloo Public Health,


Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Public Health,

Last modified on Jul 25, 2016