Most Day Care Programs Don’t Give Kids Enough Exercise

WEDNESDAY, May 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Rates of childhood obesity in the United States are soaring, and new research suggests child care programs may be part of the problem.Most tots in these programs aren’t getting nearly enough exercise.National guidance for child care programs calls for prov…

Most tots in these programs aren’t getting nearly enough exercise.

National guidance for child care programs calls for providing at least two opportunities a day for physical activity, totaling 60 to 90 minutes. While the new study found that 74% of programs did provide enough opportunities for physical activity, only half gave kids the recommended amount of time, and just 43% gave them both enough opportunities and enough time.

“Kids who are less active have poorer physical fitness and coordination, higher rates of obesity, shorter attention spans, and poorer cognitive development,” said study author Lauren Olsho, a health expert at Abt Associates in Rockville, Md. “Fully 60% of kids in the U.S. are in some kind of formal child care for an average of around 30 hours a week, which means that child care settings are the main opportunity for many kids to be active.”

For the study, Olsho’s team observed 96 child care centers and 131 Head Start programs to see how much physical activity preschoolers were getting both inside the classroom, and outside.

The kids were inactive about 25% of the time, not including naps and eating time, she said. “The biggest surprise for me was just how much time the classes were sedentary, with most of the kids sitting or lying down,” Olsho said.

Teachers and parents can play a role in bucking these trends, she said.

“Young kids tend to be most active at the start of an outdoor play session, so multiple shorter sessions are better than a single long one,” Olsho said.