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Health & Parenting

Exercise Not Tied to Preschool Obesity

Activity Doesn't Determine Weight Outcome, Study Shows
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Parents Need to Move, Too

Last spring the American Academy of Pediatrics released a position statement on physical activity and childhood obesity, which called for the promotion of unorganized free play time for preschool-aged children.

Gregory and Gomez were two of the authors of the position statement. Among the specific recommendations for children of all ages:

  • Children should be engaged in physical activity -- either organized or free play - for at least one hour a day.
  • Screen time -- including TV, computers, and electronic games -- should be limited to less than two hours a day.
  • Parents should set a good example by being physically active themselves.

"A parent can't say, ‘You have to do this, but I'm going to watch TV.' That won't work," Gregory says. "And physical activity has to be fun. If it isn't fun, kids aren't going to do it."

Gomez says very young children need to be given the opportunity to be physically active, but they don't need highly structured play.

"I am of the opinion that we have failed to emphasize the importance of free play," he says. "Kids are naturally active. You don't have to tell them what to do. You just have to provide the time and a safe environment and they will do the rest."

He adds that young children should spend as much time as possible outside, assuming that they are supervised and have a safe place to play.

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