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Put down the screen, put on some sun screen: U of T expert on getting children physically active

Screen time is not recommended at all for children under the age of two, Dr. Paul Cantarutti writes (photo by Brad Flickinger via Flickr)

Kids should be putting down the screens, and putting on the sun screen, says Dr. Paul Cantarutti, an assistant professor at the department of family & community medicine at the University of Toronto. 

The chief of the department of family & community medicine at Southlake Regional Health Centre talks about children and physical activity in the current edition of Doctors' Notes, a weekly column in the Toronto Star, which is written by members of U of T's Faculty of Medicine.

Cantarutti writes that while we know “physical activity, especially among young children, is highly beneficial, contributing to a lower risk of obesity and increased motor skill development, psychosocial health and heart health,” fewer than a third of Canadian children are receiving the minimum recommended “one hour of energetic play” by the age of five.

Research shows that more than 10 per cent of children between the ages of three and 19 are obese, and children who consistently spend over four hours watching TV on a daily basis are more likely to be overweight.

“Although technology has provided us with advancements to improve efficiency, increase our accessibility for news and entertainment, and expand our capabilities for connecting with others, Canadian health guidelines recommend that children and adolescents should still limit recreational screen time to no more than one to two hours per day,” he writes. “Screen time is not recommended at all for children under the age of two,” he writes.

Cantarutti recommends that both children and teenagers participate in at least an hour of physical activity each day, and that parents lead by example. 

“Remember, it’s OK for kids to be a little bored – this encourages them to develop the skills required to fill up their time. Encourage your children to use their imaginations, to connect with friends or find new activities that might improve their physical, cognitive and social skills.”

Read the entire Doctors' Notes column in the Toronto Star