Just like for adults, increased physical activity has been linked to better overall health and reduced risk of chronic disease in children. But there are a few more key advantages for children being physically active including:
It can be confusing trying to figure out which guidelines to follow (2-7). Your safest bet and easiest way to remember is “60-60-60” since the most comprehensive guidelines recommend 120 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day (60 minutes of structured and 60 minutes of unstructured) and sedentary time no longer than 60 minutes at a time (see Sedentary Behavior). Providing 120 mins of activity, however, doesn’t just mean increasing recess or outdoor play time as this does not necessarily increase physical activity for every child. For already active children, more playground time can mean more active play. But for some children who typically choose to engage in more sedentary options they may just be sedentary longer.
A common problem with ensuring your child gets enough physical activity is that they are in the care of both parents and providers. If a child is in a child care facility, one must not assume the teacher is meeting the total physical activity minutes for the day. On the other hand, teachers also cannot assume the child is achieving his/her physical activity goals at home. So it is important to have open communication between both the provider and caregiver about the child's daily physical activity routine. Parents should also reinforce fundamental movement skills children learn in the classroom and provide additional opportunities at home.
Visit the Healthy Kids Resource Center, physical activities to do with your children for ideas!
Contrary to popular belief, studies show that children in child care programs are generally NOT active! So what does this mean for parents? Continuous at-home involvement is the key
While 120 mins seems like a long time, it can be broken up into shorter bouts of activity. Some of that activity (60 minutes) should be spent doing structured bouts of activity, meaning “adult-led” physical activities with an intended goal or outcome. The other 60 minutes (or more) may be unstructured or “active free-play”. Finally, children should not be sedentary for longer than 60 minutes at any give time. Be sure to get children up periodically and get them moving throughout the day!
Structured play is an organized or "guided" activity, with intentional goals or objectives that give children opportunities to practice key fundamental movement skills such as those found in state or local Pre-K standards . These activities can also teach children their colors, numbers, or letters.
What does the recommendation of “moderate-to-vigorous physical activity” mean? “Moderate-to-vigorous” refers to large body movement activities that significantly increase breathing and use arms and/or legs (not just hands).
Unstructured play is free time playing on the school playground, at the park, or with the neighborhood friends in a guided and safe environment. Sometimes this means providing sports equipment, playground equipment, stencils on the ground or other child appropriate props for them to choose from. The child is free to do whatever kind of physical activity he/she chooses. Unstructured play helps children develop their sense of independence and social interaction. Encourage your child to play outdoors as much as possible, whether at a playground, park, or on nature walk.
Join in!Teachers and parents need to be involved!If children see adults do it, they want to do it. If children see adults uninterested, they are likely to also be uninterested.
Healthy Kids Resource Center
A one-stop shop for evidence-based research, resources, curricula, activities and materials that focus on obesity prevention for teachers and parents of young children. It is designed to educate parents and teachers as well as provide the tools needed to teach young children how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Lindsay, A. and Byington, T., 2020, Physical Activity, How Much Is Enough? | Active Kids Are Healthy Kids, Extension,| University of Nevada, Reno, FS-20-19
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