Children who spend a full day in childcare may not be getting enough physical activity. A study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center finds that the majority of childcare centers are not providing children with the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of time outdoors for recess. The study also reveals that children who did not get 60 minutes of activity during a day of childcare were less active overall in a 24-hour period. The results underscore the importance of physical activity for children in preschool and in childcare.
The researchers evaluated the activity of 380 children as part of the Preschool Eating and Activity Study (PEAS). The children, aged three to six years, were enrolled in 30 different childcare centers from November 2009 to January 2011.
Time outside during childcare significantly impacted children’s overall levels of activity. Children who attended full-day childcare centers that provided at least 60 minutes of time outdoors were more active over the 24-hour day than children who did not get 60 minutes of activity during childcare. The amount of outdoor time at childcare centers was the only factor that predicted the total amount of physical activity children had in a full day.
Only 30 percent of children received the recommended 60 minutes of outdoor recess in a full day of childcare. While 90 percent of childcare centers reported scheduling two outdoor sessions per day, only 40 percent of children took part. Thirty-two percent of children had no time outdoors.
“We know daily physical activity is essential for children’s growth and development. It improves cardiovascular and bone health and has been linked to improved mood, attention, and cognitive performance. Yet, few preschoolers are meeting daily physical activity recommendations of 60 minutes per day,” stated study author Kristin Copeland, MD, of the Division of General and Community Pediatrics.
Outdoor play during childcare is especially important for children who lack opportunities for physical activity at home. The authors recommend that childcare facilities with inclement weather make use of indoor space and try taking children outside for short periods.
This research is published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
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