Health Fact Sheets
Physical activity and screen time among Canadian children and youth, 2016 and 2017

Release date: April 17, 2019

Regular physical activity among children and youth is related to improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body composition, bone density, physical fitness, academic achievement, and aspects of mental health including self-esteem.Note 1 Conversely, recreational sedentary behaviour, such as time spent watching TV or playing video games, is linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and poorer scores in psychosocial health indicators such as body-satisfaction.Note 2

In Canada, recommendations on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep in children and youth are outlined in the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.Note 3 The guidelines recommend that children and youth aged 5 to 17:

Nearly 40% of children and youth aged 5 to 17 met the physical activity target

Approximately 2 out of 5 children and youth aged 5 to 17 met the recommended physical activity target of 60 minutes of MVPA per day, on average (Chart 1). Boys (52%) were two times as likely as girls (26%) and children aged 5 to 11, (47%) were 1.5 times as likely as youth aged 12-17, (31%) to meet the recommendation.

Chart 1 Percentage of children and youth aged 5 to 17 getting 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (on average) per day, by sex and age group, household population, Canada, 2016 and 2017

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Percent, calculated using Total and 39 units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Percent
Total 39
Age group 5 to 11 years 47
12 to 17 years 31
Sex Boys 52
Girls 26

On average, children and youth aged 5 to 17 spent 63 minutes per day in MVPA (Chart 2). Average daily MVPA was slightly higher for children (65 minutes) compared to youth (61 minutes) and significantly higher for boys (77 minutes) compared to girls (49 minutes).

Chart 2 Average time spent in light and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (minutes per day), children and youth aged 5 to 17, by age group and sex, household population, Canada, 2016 and 2017

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 Light physical activity and Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, calculated using minutes/day, Total, 238 and 63 units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Light physical activity Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
minutes/day
Total 238 63
Age group 5 to 11 years 259 65
12 to 17 years 215 61
Sex Boys 241 77
Girls 235 49

On average, children and youth aged 5 to 17 spent an additional 238 minutes (3 hours and 58 minutes) in light physical activity (LPA) (Chart 2). Similar to MVPA, LPA was slightly higher for children (4 hours and 19 minutes) compared to youth (3 hours and 35 minutes), however there was no difference between boys (4 hours and 1 minute) and girls (3 hours and 55 minutes).

Just over half of children and youth aged 5 to 17 had no more than two hours of screen time per day

Just over half (53%) of children and youth aged 5 to 17 met the recommendation to spend no more than 2 hours of screen-time per day, on average (Chart 3). Children (76%) were more than two times as likely as youth (26%) to meet the recommendation. However, girls (58%) were more likely than boys (47%) to meet the recommendation.

Chart 3 Percentage of children aged 5 to 17 with no more than 2 hours of screen-time per day, by age group and sex, household population, Canada, 2016 and 2017

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3 Percent, calculated using Total and 55 units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Percent
Total 53
Age group 5 to 11 years 76
12 to 17 years 26
Sex Boys 47
Girls 58

On average, children and youth aged 5 to 17 had 3 hours of screen time per day (data not shown). Screen time was slightly lower for children (2.5 hours) compared to youth (4 hours). There were no differences between boys (3 hours) and girls (3 hours).

Youth aged 12 to 17 were asked about specific types of screen time activities, such as:

Among youth, on average per day, about 1.5 hours was spent watching TV or movies, 1.75 hours was spent on the computer and 0.75 hours was spent playing video games (Chart 4). Boys (1 hour) spent slightly more time playing video games than girls (0.25 hours) while girls (2 hours) spent slightly more time on the computer than boys (1.5 hours).

Chart 4 Average self-reported total screen time, television/movie time, video game time and computer time, in hours per day, youth aged 12 to 17, by sex and age group, household population, Canada, 2016 and 2017

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4 Television/movies, Video games and Computer, calculated using hours per day, Total, 1.50 and 0.75 units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Television/movies Video games Computer
hours per day
Total 1.50 0.75 1.75
Sex Boys 1.50 1.00 1.50
Girls 1.50 0.25 2.00

Sleep among children and youth

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth also provide recommendations on sleep as longer sleep duration is linked to reduced body fat, improved academic achievement and better quality of life. Moreover, it is associated with improved regulation of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms.Note 5 The guidelines recommend that children aged 5 to 13 get 9 to 11 hours and youth aged 14 to 17 get 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep.Note 3

Estimates for sleep duration are not available from the 2016 and 2017 CHMS, but  results from the 2009 to 2011 CHMS combined with the 2012 and 2013 CHMS showed that three-quarters (75%) of children and youth met the recommendation.Note 6 Children aged 5 to 11 were more likely to get enough sleep (83%) compared to youth aged 12 to 17 (68%). There were no differences between boys (77%) and girls (73%).

When combining MVPA, screen-time and sleep, about 18% of children and youth met all three recommendations.Note 6 Children aged 5 to 11 (29%) were more than 4 times more likely than youth aged 12 to 17 (6%) to meet all three recommendations. Boys (23%) were nearly two times more likely than girls (12%) to meet all three recommendations. However, about one in ten (11%) children and youth did not meet any of the recommendations.Note 6

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About Physical Activity

The activity monitor was worn on an elasticized belt over the right hip. An activity monitor measures the acceleration of movement, recording it as a count per minute (cpm) value. The cpm values provide information on the amount of time spent being sedentary, in light activity, and in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The activity monitor also captures step in counts per day, which is another measure that can be used to assess physical activity levels in children and youth.Note 7

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