University of South Carolina

Move those tots!


Tots need at least three hours of daily exercise

By Karen Petit, Arnold School of Public Health, kpetit@mailbox.sc.edu

Walk, play, jump, run or take off on a tricycle. Whatever you do, get young children moving more.

Arnold School of Public Health researchers Russ Pate and Jennifer O'Neill are calling for three hours of daily exercise for children under age 6.

In a commentary in the “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,” the University of South Carolina Arnold School colleagues note that, with the increasing number of children who are overweight or obese, numerous authorities are recommending more action be taken to improve children's health.

In the United States alone, 26.7 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese or overweight.

While it's been previously thought that young children need a minimum of one hour of physical activity a day, major organizations in three countries -- Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – are seeking to raise the benchmark to three hours.

Studies using accelerometers (wristwatch-like devices that measure physical activity) show that preschool-age kids get only sporadic exercise, with very little of it vigorous.

For children under age 6, experts generally advise a combination of light activity and energetic activity throughout the day.

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom outlines lighter activity as casual walking, moving around or less energetic playtime. More energetic activities include fast walking, riding a bike, dancing, swimming, skipping rope and active play such as hide-and-seek games.

In 2010, Australia's Department of Health and Aging recommended at least three hours of daily activity for toddlers and preschoolers spread throughout the day. In 2011, the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommended parents and others caring for children provide “opportunities for light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity for at least 15 minutes per hour," which translates to three hours daily, for children who spend 12 hours awake.

"These three new guidelines, although using somewhat distinct phrasing, are remarkably similar in that they all recommend that young children engage in three hours of total physical activity per day," Pate and O'Neill wrote in their commentary.

The two scientists are members of the Arnold School’s Children’s Physical Activity Research Group. Pate is principal investigator for the organization; O’Neill is a post-doctoral fellow.

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Posted: 10/26/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/26/12 @ 9:47 AM | Permalink