Even Babies Need Exercise
To maintain their lifelong health and your sanity, make sure your infant or toddler is getting enough physical activity.
As children grow, she says, those who exercise and continue to
do so into adulthood are much less likely to become obese.
"Of course, you can't ignore the genetics and environmental
influences that every kid has, but early exercise offers a sort of protection
against obesity in later life, and that's important to your child's
health," says Rosello.
In a two-year study of obese 8- to 12-year-olds from 90
families, increased activity and reduced television viewing resulted in
significant weight loss. The study, published in the August 1999 issue of
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, showed that children who
are more physically active are less likely to become obese.
The NASPE's Active Start guidelines are divided into two groups
of activity levels -- one for infants and one for toddlers.
Here are some of the suggestions for infants:
- Infants should be placed in settings that encourage physical activity and
do not restrict movement for prolonged periods of time.
- Parents and caretakers should be aware of the importance of physical
activity and encourage the child's movement skills.
For toddlers, the NASPE says, basic movement skills such as
running, jumping, throwing, and kicking are clearly influenced by the
environment they grow up in. For instance, they say, a child who does not have
access to stairs may be delayed in stair climbing and a child who is
discouraged from bouncing and chasing balls may lag in hand-eye
Here are some of the suggestions for toddlers:
- Toddlers should get at least 30 minutes daily of structured physical
activity. Preschoolers need at least 60 minutes.
- Both toddlers and preschoolers should not be restrained for more than 60
minutes at a time in car seats or strollers, except when sleeping.
"It's important for parents to get involved and stay
involved with the child," says Judy Young, PhD, NASPE executive director.
"That child-parent interaction is what reinforces the exercise. In a sense,
it becomes more than exercise and is more a physical-psychological learning
experience for the child."