Lack of Physical Activity in Preschoolers

USA Today printed an article entitled, Study shows preschoolers spend too much time on sedentary activities, in today’s paper about the lack of physical activity in preschoolers. Some research shows that preschoolers only spend 2-3% of the day in vigorous physical activity! An analysis was done by holding focus groups with early childhood educators to determine what was influencing this decline in physical activity. The educators reported that the following barriers existed:

  • fear of injury
  • strong focus on academics
  • budget constraints (lack of outdoor space or equipment).

Here is my comments to this story…
This is ridiculous. How can preschoolers only be spending 2-3% per day in vigorous physical activity??? This is shameful. Children need to move to learn properly. They need active free play for physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth.

In the United States we have a humongous obesity problem (no pun intended). The government seems to blame McDonald’s Happy Meals for this and has essentially forced fast food restaurants to change their menus. Commercials for sugared cereal have had to change in an attempt to decrease obesity. This is so frustrating to me when no one will address the lack of physical activity. If children were moving more throughout the day, a serving a fries would burn right off.

Now to address the educators reported barriers –
1. Fear of injury. I understand that parents hover over children like never before. But really we can not promote physical activity in preschool for fear of a skinned knee? That too is shameful. One thing mentioned was that playground equipment has so many regulations that it is not challenging for the children (so then why would they get hurt). Not to mention, research has shown children move more with jump ropes and playground balls versus playground equipment.

2. Strong focus on academics – The push for children to learn to read at an early age just keeps getting stronger. Educators may want to slow down and read themselves. Research has shown time and time again, physically active children are smarter! Again, children need to move to learn. The brain body connection is amazing. Exercise gets children’s brains ready to learn.

3. Budget constraints – Really? Really? Come on. A playground ball cost $1 maybe $2. Tag costs nothing (oh wait they may skin a knee). So how about duck, duck goose? Simon Says? Mother May I? Last I checked there were very few emergency room visits following these games. Children do not need a ton of space to get exercise. Move furniture to the perimeter of the classroom and you have some space to move around. Geesh, children can move at their little desks if necessary. There are so many physical activity ideas that require little to no equipment therefore cost next to nothing. This “excuse” makes me the most frustrated.

Now here is my humble opinion on why children do not move in the classroom. It is a lot of behavior management. It is easier for teachers to keep children seated than let them move. Teachers have told me that they don’t like the kids to move around because it is too hard to get them to settle back down. I always recommend to establish a routine and rules for movement and it usual works. In addition, there is a rough time when you start introducing movement. If children are truly sedentary all day, then you let them move…yes they might go a little crazy. Can you blame them? Once the routine is established of movement time followed by a cool down time to getting children ready to work the behaviors decrease. I can not think of a better way to teach self regulation either – move, calm the body down and be ready to work. Oh yeah, research has also shown time and time again, that children who exhibit good self regulation in the early years are the most successful in life.

We need to get our children moving more from birth through adulthood.

Reference: Hellmich, N. Study shows preschoolers spend too much time on sedentary activities. Retrieved from the web on 1/4/2012 at http://yourlife.usatoday.com/parenting-family/story/2012-01-03/Study-shows-preschoolers-spend-too-much-time-on-sedentary-activities/52367890/1?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=205764