Physical Activity and Reduction of Obesity

Nourishing and attractive food is the cornerstone for children’s health, growth, and development as well as developmentally appropriate learning experiences.

Because children grow and develop more rapidly during the first few years of life than at any other time, the child’s home and the facility together must provide food that is adequate in amount and type to meet each child’s growth and nutritional needs.

Children can learn healthy eating habits and be better equipped to maintain a healthy weight if they eat nourishing food while attending early care and education settings and if they are allowed to feed themselves and determine the amount of food they will ingest at any one sitting.

The obesity epidemic makes this an important lesson today.

Young children learn better through experiencing an activity and observing behavior than through didactic methods. There may be a reciprocal relationship between learning and play so that play experiences are closely related to learning.

Children can live by rules about health and safety when their personal experience helps them to understand why these rules were created. National guidelines for children birth to age five encourage their engagement in daily physical activity that promotes movement, motor skills and the foundations of health-related fitness.

Physical activity is important to overall health and to overweight and obesity prevention.

The facility should promote children’s active play every day. Children should have ample opportunity to do moderate to vigorous activities such as running, climbing, dancing, skipping, and jumping.

The total time allotted for outdoor play and moderate to vigorous indoor or outdoor physical activity can be adjusted for the age group and weather conditions.

Infants should have supervised tummy time every day when they are awake. Beginning on the first day at the early care and education program, caregivers/teachers should interact with an awake infant on their tummy for short periods of time (three to five minutes), increasing the amount of time as the infant shows s/he enjoys the activity.

Time spent outdoors has been found to be a strong, consistent predictor of children’s physical activity. Because structured activities have been shown to produce higher levels of physical activity in young children, it is recommended that caregivers/teachers incorporate two or more short structured activities (five to ten minutes) or games daily that promote physical activity.

Children should have adequate space for both inside and outside play.

Free play, active play and outdoor play are essential components of young children’s development. Children learn through play, developing gross motor, socio-emotional, and cognitive skills. In outdoor play, children learn about their environment, science, and nature.

Daily physical activity is an important part of preventing excessive weight gain and childhood obesity.


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