Preschool children at child care centers spend too little time outdoors, a new study says.
The research from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center included 380 children, ages 3-6, at 30 U.S. child care centers from November 2009 through January 2011.
While 90 percent of the centers said they scheduled at least two outdoor sessions daily, only 40 percent of the children took part, and only 30 percent had the recommended 60 minutes daily outdoor time. Thirty-two percent of the children spent no time outside.
The researchers also found that children in centers with at least 60 minutes of outdoor time were more active over 24 hours than those who did not get this amount of outdoor time, according to the study published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“These [outdoor] opportunities may be especially important for children who lack opportunities to be active at home,” said senior author Dr. Kristen Copeland, a pediatrics researcher at the medical center.
“That’s why what happens in the child care centers has important and lasting effects for children’s total daily levels of activity,” she said in a journal news release.
“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,” Copeland said. “Yet, few preschoolers are meeting daily physical activity recommendations of 60 minutes or more per day.
“To ensure that children receive adequate opportunities to be active, centers that regularly face inclement conditions should make better use of indoor spaces and encourage teachers to take children outdoors briefly on cold days,” she concluded.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about children and exercise.