Thursday, October 18th, 2012
New guidelines are emerging – around the world – that toddlers need at least 3 hours a day of physical activity, according to a commentary published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
As explained by Drs. Russell R. Pate and Jennifer R. O’Neill, up until recently national advisory boards have not made specific recommendations for kids under 6 years of age. However, given the increasing rate of weight issues in toddlers—it’s estimated that over 26% of American children between the ages of 2 and 5 years are either obese or overweight—there is a need for developing guidelines on physical activity. They pull on guidelines being offered in Australia, the UK, and via the Institute of Medicine, all of which focus on 3 hours as the minimum daily requirement for physical activity for toddlers.
To make this concrete, they cite a recommendation offered by the Institute of Medicine, which suggests that toddlers in child care get 15 minutes per hour of physical activity.
All of these suggestions don’t specify whether the physical activity is vigorous or moderate. But we all know what it looks like to see kids running and playing and moving. So the idea for parents is to have a look at your kid’s daily routine—both at home and when they are in any form of care—and determine if they are getting the proper amount of physical activity.
I want to bring particular attention to your child’s preschool schedule. There is a growing trend for reductions in preschool play time – drawn in part from perceptions by parents that their kids should spend their time learning “academic” skills and not running around and playing (click here to see a prior blog post on this topic published earlier this year). This is misguided in two ways. First, lots of new studies are showing how physical activity is associated with better school performance for a number of reasons (e.g., burning off some energy can help kids concentrate better, physical activity promotes motor development which is linked with cognitive development). And second, kids simply need physical activity to stay healthy and combat the obesity epidemic which continues to affect more and more kids at younger ages.
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