Many Preschoolers Not Getting Enough Outdoor
MONDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Roughly half of America's
preschool-aged children are not getting a daily dose of parentally
supervised outdoor playtime, a new study reveals.
Analyzing data on nearly 9,000 children previously collected in
a long-term U.S. study, researchers found that much of the
country's youth, especially young girls, aren't engaging in routine
outdoor physical activities.
"One of the main points is that even though many of us may assume that young children spend some time outdoors every day, there's considerable room for improvement in how often parents take their children outside to play," said study lead author Dr. Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician and researcher with the Seattle Children's Research Institute.
"This study highlights something we already know from other studies, which is that girls in particular seem to have fewer opportunities for outdoor play than boys. We have to try to support girls in the same way we encourage boys to be active and to play outdoors," added Tandon, who is also an acting assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The findings appear online April 2 in the
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study authors said the American Academy of Pediatrics
suggests doctors take a proactive role in encouraging routine
physical activity among kids, particularly outdoor activity, which
can be critical to helping children develop motor skills, as well
as promoting vision and mental acuity.
The research team looked at statistics on the outdoor-activity
routines of 8,950 children born in 2001 who were tracked through
enrollment in kindergarten. The data were deemed to be nationally
representative, reflecting the behavior of an estimated 4 million
Each child's mother was interviewed regarding the frequency and
nature of her child's outdoor play experience at the ages of 9
months, 2 years and 4 years, (or a year before kindergarten) and
then again once enrolled in kindergarten.
Only 51 percent of the kids were found to be following a daily
routine of parent-supervised outdoor play. That figure, however,
rose slightly -- to 58 percent -- among children who were not
enrolled in some form of child care.
Boys were more likely than girls to get daily outdoor exercise,
and children whose parents were more likely to exercise also were
more likely to get out on a daily basis.
What's more, race seemed to play a role, with children from
white families getting substantially more outdoor play than those
with Asian, black or Hispanic mothers. Specifically, Asian mothers
were 49 percent less likely to take their children outdoors for
play, black mothers were 41 percent less likely and Hispanic
mothers were 20 percent less likely.
Mothers were more likely than fathers to be the supervising
parent during outdoor play -- 44 percent of mothers said they took
their child out for daily play, while only 24 percent of fathers
TV-watching habits of children did not affect the findings. Nor
did mothers' marital status, perceived neighborhood safety or
family income levels.
"I want to encourage parents to talk to all their child's caregivers, and to ask about their outdoor playtime experience in the same way they would normally ask about how much their child ate that day and what they learned," Tandon said.
Rahil Briggs, a child psychologist with Children's Hospital at
Montefiore, in New York City, agreed that "there's a very real need
for growing children to have outdoor play."
"Unfortunately, I'm not too surprised with these findings, because of what we already know about the obesity epidemic in this country and all the sedentary activities our children are partaking in with the use of video games, TV, the iPad and all of that," she said.
"Parents need to change their thinking about outdoor play as a luxury that they can get in for their kids on a Saturday, to something along the lines of a necessity," Briggs said. "We need to know that it has an important impact on our children's physical health and also on their behavioral development and concerns."
For more on children and exercise, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2012
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.