Healthy kids 3 to 5 years old thrive best with at least 120 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Most people think of preschoolers as high-activity kids, but the current obesity epidemic prompted researchers to measure preschool physical activity levels, just to be sure. This generation of school-age kids is the most sedentary in history.
What’s the story during preschool? Researchers fitted children from 9 different preschools with accelerometers, which they wore for an average of 4.4 hours on an average of 6.6 days, to measure how much they really move about. The results were published in the November 2004 Pediatrics. The children averaged about 30 minutes a day of the recommended level of activity at preschool, and it was unlikely that they made up the difference at home.
Perhaps the most striking finding of the study was the major differences in activity levels from preschool to preschool. A full day at one preschool might provide more than 80 minutes of exercise, at another only 30. More than half of the kids in the United States attend a formal preschool. I wish that all preschools provided 2 hours a day for kids to dance the hokey-pokey, play ga-ga ball, or romp in some other fun way. In the meantime, I recommend that parents consider physical activity opportunities when selecting a preschool for their children.