Experts issue fitness guidelines for preschoolers for the first time

Children's fitness
Children's fitness(Source: WBTV)
Published: Jan. 14, 2019 at 8:56 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - How active is your child? Do you think they have too much screen time? New guidelines on physical activity for children just might make you consider making some changes to their daily routine.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has released a second edition for its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. For the first time - there are new guidelines for young children ages three to five years old. Experts say preschoolers should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.

That may sound like a tall order but it's easier thank you think, especially when you take into account how much screen time young children are exposed to these days. Dr. Genevieve Brauning is a family doctor with Novant Health and says keeping tighter limits on screen time is essential to your child's health. “Even though there are educational opportunities from screens or shows, you need to be moving. And just playing - and really what we traditionally think of as being a kid,” she said.

Typically the guidelines start for children at six years old and go all the way through adolescence until age 17. But, for children age three to five, the recommendations say they should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. They also laid out the kinds of activity and it's not exercise in the traditional sense.

“When they put these guidelines out they didn't say, you know - take your three year old to the gym and put them on the treadmill,” said Dr. Brauning. “Active play and specifically jumping, and hopping and skipping and somersaulting and rolling around. That's their exercise. So giving them ample opportunity for the three to six year old throughout the day, not just ‘oh, we're gonna do 60 minutes at eight in the morning’. Their day should basically include ongoing active play and a lot of movement.”

The guidelines for children six to 17 haven't really changed but I wanted to reiterate them as a reminder for parents. The recommendations include 60 minutes of vigorous activity each day which you can break it up into 10 -15 minute increments if you needed. Examples include walking, running, playground time, basketball, jumping rope. Anything that makes their hearts beat faster and makes their muscles and bones strong.

“The benefits are clear,” said Dr. Brauning. “There are immediate benefits that people will see in kids’ health that day including sleeping better, some improved learning and memory. And then the long term benefits. So reducing obesity, reducing diseases associated with obesity. So diabetes, high blood pressure.”

She also points to the importance of parents leading by example.

“We have to show our kids that it's important to take time for exercise,” Dr. Brauning said. “And that you don't have to feel bad about making that time in your schedule. Those can be family activities. We all go for walks together; we all ride our bikes together.”

She also said you don’t have to be super athletic and it doesn’t have to be a sport. Just getting outside - away from the screens and playing -- will do it. Anything that gets your heart rate up and going which is why she said family walks and bike rides, are great examples.

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