The list of Americans not getting proper exercise continues to grow longer. Preschoolers have now made the list after Seattle researchers published a new study finding that most preschool children get an average of only 48 minutes per day of exercise. This is less than half of the two-hour suggested amount of exercise that other studies have recommended.
University of Washington assistant professor Pooja Tandon, calls the preschool age a crucial age to develop essential motor skills and prevent obesity. The concern comes as obesity rates in children aged 6-11 more than doubled from 7% in 1980 to almost 18% in 2012. And even more alarming is the adolescent obesity rate for ages 12 – 19 which quadrupled from 5% to almost 21%. The obesity rates were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tandon believes that the new focus on increasing academic skills is reducing the amount of time preschools are allowing for active play.
Researchers went to 10 Seattle preschools to track the children’s activities. They found that during a 50 day study, 29% of the time that the children were at preschool was dedicated to napping and only 12% to active play.
Debbie Chang, vice president of Nemours Children’s Health System in Delaware believes that preschools have to get creative to get kids more active. She says simple things like books that require role-playing can get kids moving.
Rachel Robertson, vice president of Bright Horizons which owns a string of day-care centers agrees that active play is important in preschools. She believes that physical activity can be woven into any subject. For example, having children use their bodies to spell out numbers or using a jump rope to count.
Preschools that don’t have outdoor space may need to find ways to use other spaces to get kids active. Chang says that physical activity improves the kids’ behaviors and helps them sleep better at nap time.