Evidence-based research has found three behaviors that lead to higher scores on tests of mental ability in children: at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, nine to 11 hours of sleep a night, and no more than two hours a day of recreational screen time.

According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, for kids between the ages of eight and 11, it should include at least 60 minutes of physical activity, two hours or less of recreational screen time, and nine to 11 hours of sleep. Yet, in a new study, only one in 20 US children met all three of these recommendations.

The research, published on Thursday (Sept. 27) in the academic journal Lancet Child & Adolescent Health (paywall), used data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a 10-year, longitudinal, observational study of over 4,500 children between eight and 11 years old, from 21 study sites across the US, and compared their daily exercise, technology, and sleep habits to the guidelines. The researchers then assessed the participants’ “global cognition” with standards developed by the National Institute of Health.

They found that only 5% of children met all three recommendations. Sixty-three percent of children spent more than two hours a day staring at screens, going over the screen-time limit; 82% of children failed to meet the guidelines for daily physical activity; and 49% did not get the recommended hours of sleep. Twenty-nine percent met none of the recommended standards.

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth

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