Most Young Kids Don’t Get Enough Exercise

Survey Shows Children Aren’t Following Recommendations for Daily Physical Activity

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on April 14, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

April 14, 2011 -- About three out of four children ages 5 to 10 get less than one hour of physical activity daily, according to a new survey.

The survey of more than 1,600 U.S. parents was conducted by the YMCA of the USA, also known as Y-USA.

It showed that that 74% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 do not get enough exercise on a daily basis, based on the 60 minutes of daily physical activity recommended in the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Only 15% of the parents in the survey indicated that overall physical health is the top concern for their children, even though rates of childhood obesity have been climbing.

The survey found that 52% of parents said they’d been forced to cut back, at least to some degree, on their children’s after-school activities, which are common ways for kids to get active playtime, in an effort to save money.

Other findings from the survey:

  • 74% of parents say they choose to spend family time with their children sitting in front of a TV set.
  • 42% of parents say growing technological distractions, including social networks, computer games, and cell phones, are getting in the way of active play.
  • 53% say they spend leisure time with their kids playing video games, or otherwise on a computer.
  • 58% say their children ages 5 to 10 spend fewer than four days a week playing outdoors.
  • 42% of parents say they are more concerned with their children’s financial security than their physical activity; 50% of parents say families play a sport together less than once a week.
  • 38% of parents feel extracurricular activities are too expensive and 38% say there is not enough time in the day to achieve a healthy lifestyle for their kids.
  • 41% of parents say they are cutting back on extracurricular activities for their kids to save money for the family’s future.
  • About 90% of parents say they provide a healthy home environment for their children, but 41% get 60 minutes of exercise less than one day a week.
  • About 50% of children 5-10 are watching at least two hours of TV a day more than five days a week, and spending an hour in front of a computer three days a week.

Parents Are Struggling Financially

Lynne Vaughan, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at the YMCA, says officials realize that parents are struggling to find the time and resources to incorporate physical activity and healthier habits into the daily lives of their kids. But she points out that getting active does not necessarily require much time or money.

The YMCA declared April 16 as Healthy Kids Day as a reminder to parents that health and well-being is essential for children, and being active can be as simple as scheduling a play date with their kids.

“The Y is committed to improving our nation’s health and well-being,” says Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of Y-USA. “We know it takes a collective effort to combat the growing rates of obesity and chronic illness in this country.”

He says the YMCA wants children, with parental help, “to start making healthier choices at home, so they can lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”

Tips for Families

The YMCA offers these tips for families to help them improve physical activity of their children:

  • Make a play date with your youngsters, one that requires physical activity, such as charades.
  • Dance. Have a dance contest.
  • Go bike riding or inline skating. Make sure to wear a helmet.
  • Visit a nearby park or camp out in the backyard and get everyone moving.

Show Sources


News release, YMCA.

YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot.

Department of Health and Human Services: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2008.”

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