Preschoolers Lack Outdoor Exercise, Study Shows
July 19-Preschoolers spend too much time inside and not enough outside, according to a new study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Mona Hanna-Attisha MD, MPH, Director of the Hurley-Michigan State University Pediatric Residency Training Program, spoke out about such children who don't get enough movement and exercise in a January, 2012 interview with Terry Camp of WJRT-ABC12, Flint's ABC TV affiliate.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha stated, “According to this report, preschoolers these days are spending only 2-3% of their time outside in physical activity. This means that the majority of their time is spent inside, and this is not what preschoolers are intended to do. Preschoolers today are four times less likely to be active than their grandparents were.”
The three main reasons why teachers and parents are keeping kids inside (cited by the report):
1) Safety and Injury Concerns
2) Focus on Academics
3) Budget Constraints
New policies and guidelines for injury prevention
Hanna-Attisha explained that “regarding safety and injury concerns, a lot of states have new policies and guidelines for injury prevention, mandating, for instance, that playgrounds can’t be too high and that they have to have a certain amount of wood chips of a certain thickness. All these new safety rules have made playgrounds less challenging, and therefore kids aren’t doing things they used to do on playgrounds. Because of that, they’re not going outside as much, and not having as much challenging things to do when they are outside. In addition, parents are worried their kids might get hurt. So they’re keeping them inside rather than letting them go outside to play, which is limiting their activity.”
New playground equipment is too expensive for many preschools and day care centers
In addition, Hanna-Attisha said that “playground equipment to comply with all these new safety guidelines is expensive. One study cited that new playground equipment typically costs between $10,000 and $20,000, which is a lot for a day care center or a preschool on a very tight operating margin. There’s just not enough money for this equipment.”
Parents increasingly value intellectual development over physical exercise
Another problem is that today’s parents all want their kids to be ‘baby Einsteins.’ “When they pick their child up from preschool,” said Hanna-Attisha, “they want to know, ‘Did he learn his ABCs, does he know his colors,’ rather than, ‘Did he learn how to skip or run or jump.’ We all want our kids to be smart but physical activity and playing outside and the socialization that goes with that is part of growing up and part of development. And kids are missing out on that,” she added.
14% of Michigan children are obese, largely due to inactivity
This study is particularly important to the children of Michigan because approximately 14% of Michigan youth are obese and even more are overweight. Two-thirds of Michigan adults are overweight or obese. “Children who are obese will become adults who are obese, which is why it’s so important for us to encourage physical activity at as young an age as possible,” said Hanna-Attisha.
One of the main culprits for inactivity is, not surprisingly, screen time. “Kids have an amazing array of computers and video games today,” Hanna-Attisha said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time a day. That’s one of the main things we can do to get our kids outside.”
Safe neighborhoods will encourage children to go outside and exercise
Hanna-Attisha also emphasized the need for neighborhoods that are safe. “One big reason that kids don’t go outside and why parents don’t want them to go outside is because they’re worried about their safety. So we have to work together as a community to make sure our children have safe areas where they can play,” she said.