I find very little useful, practical knowledge in most of my pediatric journal reading, but an article in the February 2012 journal, Pediatrics, caught my eye as different. The authors of this article decided to study how much physical activity children are getting in daycare centers. Seventy five percent of children are in group care settings in the United States; fifty six percent of these are in daycare centers. The study observed thirty-six daycare centers in Cincinnati, Ohio. The results of this study shocked me. In these daycare centers, only two and one half percent of a child’s day is spent being active–by my calculations, this translates to, on average, about 37 minutes in the average ten hour day.
The authors did in-depth interviews with the care givers in these centers and found three main barriers to physical activity for these children:
1. Safety Concerns–Licensing laws limit the types of play equipment permitted; moreover, weather concerns—particularly fear of lightening and severe weather—limit outdoor time.
2. Academic Knowledge–Pressure from parents to prepare their children for kindergarten results in reduced unstructured and play time.
3. Budgetary Constraints–Tight budgets mean that expensive play equipment is just not affordable.
The authors draw some interesting conclusions from their data. Children in daycare centers are probably not getting enough exercise on a daily basis, certainly not what experts recommend (Experts at the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommend one and one half hours a day for toddlers and two hours for preschoolers). The study authors suggest that the lack of exercise in daycares is contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Finally, they think that lawmakers, daycare operators, and parents need to find a new balance between exercise, safety concerns and academics offered to our children in daycare. My guess is that parents, armed with the knowledge that these researchers uncovered, could solve this problem very quickly. Parents, let’s get started.
2. Copeland et. al., Pediatrics Volume 129, Number 2,February 2012