As part of the effort to battle childhood obesity, the British government issued new guidelines recommending three hours of daily exercise for children under the age of 5. Allowing young children to move around is critical, according to England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, who recommended that parents turn off the TV and take their kids to the pool in an effort to encourage their children to be more active.
The guidelines were a response to the rising obesity statistics; according to the British National Health Service (NHS), nearly a quarter of children aged four and five were overweight. The numbers are similar in the United States, where according to a recent report, “almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers carry excess weight for their length, and slightly more than 20 percent of children between the ages of two and five are already overweight or obese.”
To make sure that babies are a healthy weight, they should take swimming lessons and play on “baby gym” activity mats. Toddlers should walk for fifteen minutes of any journey, like the walk to a preschool or daycare. In both cases, parents should keep their children’s time restrained or sitting still to a minimum.
Play that allows under-fives to move about is critical and three hours a day is essential,” said Davies. “I think there are parents who are not aware how important it is for their children to be physically active for a minimum of three hours. Other parents are very busy and may not see how important it is to get that prioritization and balance right.”
The idea that babies and toddlers should be physically active makes sense, and it’s helpful of the British government to provide parents with a reminder. But three hours of exercise a day seems like something that two working parents would have trouble providing, especially if the child went to a daycare. Perhaps these new guidelines will encourage daycares and preschools to provide physical activities for children. But otherwise, I don’t see how they can possibly be implemented on a large scale.
Photo from various brennemans via flickr.