Screens are Everywhere: How to Integrate Screen Time into Children and Youth’s Daily Lives Without Sacrificing Physical Activity |

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Screens are Everywhere: How to Integrate Screen Time into Children and Youth’s Daily Lives Without Sacrificing Physical Activity

Monday, March 5, 2018 - 11:27

The majority of children and youth are not engaging in enough heart pumping physical activity for optimal health. At the same time, many of these children and youth are accumulating excessive amounts of time engaging in sedentary behaviours, especially screen time. This combination of sedentary behavior and lack of physical activity puts them at risk for a myriad of chronic health conditions both immediately, and later in life.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits all solution to these issues, and health researchers continue to work to promote healthy active living among people of all ages. The recently released Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines suggest that we take a whole day approach, and argue that the combination of various behaviours is more important than any individual behaviour in isolation.

In this blog, Dr. Allana Leblanc shares insight on physical activity and sedentary behaviours, and discusses the importance of why children and youth must adapt a whole-day approach.

 An Interview with Dr. Allana Leblanc

1. How do you approach integrating screen time into the lives of children and youth without sacrificing physical activity?

I.    It’s important to understand that the whole day matters. Although sedentary behaviour, screen time, and physical activity can be done independently, there is an important relationship between all behaviours throughout a 24-hour period. Children and youth need to sweat, step, sit and sleep appropriate amounts for optimal health.

II.    Technology isn’t going away. Over the past few decades technology has infiltrated our lives and become a fixture of modern society. Screens are omnipresent and represent a unique challenge for public health. However, it is possible to encourage the use of technology, within a healthy, active lifestyle.  

III.    Interventions to reduce screen time, and promote physical activity should be multi-component and include the school, home, and community environment. Children and youth should be part of the solution and help to create screen use guidelines for different settings.

2. How can we (educators, public health, and others) raise awareness?

The first thing to do would be to check out the Screen Time and Physical Activity Levels for Early Years, Children and Youth Evidence Energizer

This document is based on current evidence, adapted for use in the school, home, and community setting, and is developed for physical activity promoters, educators, and administrators in hopes of helping them disseminate information to their target audiences. This information can be used to help shape resources, communication pieces, presentations, and information sessions. This Evidence Energizer presents PARC’s key messages related to screen time and physical activity for early years, children, and youth, and provides an evidence-based rationale for each message along with a complete bibliography of sources. Overall, focusing on the sweat and sit – time spent engaging in moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity and time spent engaging in sedentary behaviours.

3. What excites you most about the world of physical activity right now?

For me, the most exciting thing about the physical activity world right now is the outdoors. I love being outdoors and I think in the past couple of years it’s made a bit of a comeback.

Especially this year, with all of the Canada 150 events, I think there’s been a motion to take advantage of what our country has to offer (which is a lot of outdoor space!). Getting dirty, being in the fresh air, connecting with nature. Even if that means a quick walk at lunch time, it lets you push the re-set button. I think for many years we were drawn inside – it was safe and easy. Things were done inside. Devices were plugged in, food was on the table, and work was in meeting rooms. But now, many things are portable. On the downside, we are often “on”. On the upside, that gives us more freedom to work remotely, have a walking meeting, or meet a friend in a park for lunch. Many people are turning to active commuting, both for work and fun. Trails are full on weekends, public green spaces alive. I have a dog, so by necessity we go outside every day, but I make it a point to spend as much of my free time outside as possible. And lately, and maybe this is me as an eternal optimist, but I think the “crowds” have been getting thick.

For more on information from Dr. Allana Leblanc check out the How to Integrate Screen Time into our Daily Lives Without Sacrificing Physical Activity Webinar.

About Dr. Allana LeBlanc

Dr. Allana LeBlanc completed her PhD in Population Health at the University of Ottawa, her masters (MSc) in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University, and her undergraduate degree (BScH) in the Department of Biology at Acadia University. Dr. LeBlanc is a Certified Exercise Physiologist with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, has Level 2 certification with Exercise is Medicine Canada, is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and a Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist with the ACSM/National Physical Activity Society. Over her short research career she has published over 45 articles, an h-index of 20, and over 5600 citations.

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This blog was adapted from an original blog on