The amount of time spent sitting and remaining stationary during the school day increases with age. Secondary school pupils spend almost as much time sitting as adults. Are schools teaching pupils to sit? Could we create an environment that encourages children and young people to learn and be active?
Cutting down on sitting increases wellbeing, decreases musculoskeletal problems, prevents obesity and supports health.
Recommendations for children and young people
Get a wide variety of exercise. Take advantage of everyday opportunities for physical activity, such as trips to and from school and hobbies, and the time you spend with friends. Choose the types of physical activity that you enjoy. Even short trips accumulate a lot of exercise during a week and a year, almost unnoticed.
‘The one-hour rule: do not sit for over an hour at a time and exercise at least an hour a day.’
Consider how you could cut down on sitting and break up long periods of sitting still.
Recommendations for parents
Adults are responsible for making sure that children do not spend too much time sitting. Encourage children and young people to take regular breaks from the computer or other sedentary activities. Agree on ground rules for screen time to ensure that they will not sit continuously for over an hour at a time.
Consider how to design your home to reduce sitting. It is good for you to change posture, work standing up and sit more actively, such as using a gym ball. For gaming enthusiasts, games that require standing and moving bring variation to posture instead of continuous sitting.
‘Physically active everyday life is connected to better learning outcomes.’
Encourage children and young people to choose active ways to commute to school and hobbies. Even on longer journeys, it is possible to walk at least some of the way.
You set an example for children and young people of how to cut down on and break up sedentary periods, so you should also look after your own wellbeing.
Recommendations for teachers and instructors
Support children and young people in their activities, learning and exercise in an age-appropriate manner. Aim to reduce and regularly break up continuous sedentary and stationary periods that would last for hours. It is also a good idea to explain why you take breaks from sitting.
Does your school have unnecessary rules and restrictions that prevent children from freely engaging in physical activity? Does your school offer varied and innovative ways of working? Every school day should include postural rotation and versatile physical activity. Does your school offer opportunities for pupils to work standing up once in a while or stretch their legs during lessons?
Take the disadvantages of sitting continuously for hours on end into account in all your teaching work. Work with children and young people to develop school facilities and ways to cut down on sitting. It is also possible to address cutting down on sitting as part of theoretical and practical education.
School healthcare staff
Cutting down on sitting increases the wellbeing of children and young people. Include promotion of physical activity and cutting down on sitting as part of health checks.
National recommendations to reduce sedentary time issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Ideas to increase physical activity during the school day available on the website of the Finnish Schools on the Move programme