Study: Less than 1% of preschoolers get recommended exercise

CINCINNATI — Studying nearly 400 preschoolers, researchers found that over the course of a day only one child met guidelines set for preventing obesity.

Established by the state of Maine and Harvard University to attempt to combat obesity and other health problems facing children, what’s known as the “5-2-1-0” guidelines “recommend children eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, view less than two hours of screen time, participate in one hour of physical activity or exercise and consume no sugar-sweetened beverages daily.”

Young girl playing sports
An alarming new study finds that America’s preschoolers aren’t getting enough physical activity. Just one child in 400 met guidelines for preventing obesity, and only 1% partook in the recommended hour of physical activity a day.

While it is somewhat easy to imagine a child missing some of these measures in the 24-hour study, one shortcoming did stand out as especially surprising: less than 1% of the 398 students studied got the recommended one hour of activity.

The other measures didn’t stack up well either, though they were slightly less startling:

  • 17% didn’t get the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables.
  • 50% drank sugar sweetened beverages.
  • 19% looked at phone, television, or computer screens for more than two hours.

Only one of the children met all four measures.

Performed by The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, it is the first study to examine implementation of the guidelines in preschool-age children.

“Preschool children who are overweight or obese have a four-fold odds of being overweight or obese as adults,” says study lead author Dr. Amrik Khalsa in a press release. “Preventing obesity is critical to averting obesity-associated diseases, such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular abnormalities.”

The researchers noted that by conventional standards, one in four of the children studied were already overweight.

Conducted as part of the larger Preschool Eating and Activity Study (PEAS), the research is aimed at examining “preschool influences on children’s physical activity over the full 24-hour day and over a wide range of weather conditions.”

The research comes as cities and schools across the country examine the detrimental health effects of sugary drinks and poor diets. Due to their out-sized contributions to public health issues such as diabetes and a particularly dangerous type of abdominal fat, many cities are considering legislated warnings or taxes on sugary drinks in particular.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports


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