Nearly half of all U.S. preschool-age children don’t get outdoors at least once a day for parent-supervised playtime, researchers reported Monday, causing concern among experts who say early exercise habits could protect children from obesity later in life.
Many children might not be getting enough outdoor exercise because of barriers faced by single parents and families with two working parents, said Dr. Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician with the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, who led the research.
…The good news, Tandon said, is that “these young children are naturally programmed to be active if given the opportunities.”
Tandon’s study, which appeared online Monday, on the website of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, was based on parental surveys from a national study of nearly 9,000 U.S. children, a sample size representing about 4 million children. The children, all born in 2001, were followed for several years and their parents, usually mothers, were interviewed several times, including the year before their children entered kindergarten.
Along with finding that 49 percent of children were not getting outdoors with a parent at least once every day, she and her colleagues from the research institute and the University of Washington found that those youngsters whose parents took them outdoors to play tended to be boys, children with lots of playmates and those whose parents were exercisers.
Children more often fell short of recommended exercise if their mothers were Asian, African-American or Hispanic, although the study didn’t delve into the reasons. “Being physically active is good for your brain, for your learning,” Tandon said in an interview.
Previous research, she said, has found that hyperactive kids with wandering attention do better after they have had nature breaks, which seem to make it easier to return to class, sit down and refocus.