In new guidelines published, and in an attempt to reduce the growing problem of obesity in the UK, the British Government is encouraging parents to provide exercise opportunities for babies and preschoolers every day. The campaign says that children under the age of 5 - including babies who can't even walk yet - should exercise every day while those who are walking should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day.
The Government officials are asking that parents should reduce the amount of time children spend being sedentary while watching television or being strapped in a stroller or pushchair.
And in the USA?
Chubby children are also a big concern in the United States where the Institute of Medicine last month issued diet and activity recommendations for youngsters. In these recommendations, they suggested that preschool-aged children should get at least 15 minutes of exercise for every hour they spend in child care and recommended the US government create dietary guidelines for babies from the time they are born and up until they are 2 years old. 3 hours of activity for children under 5 should be spread throughout the day. While the children's daily dose of exercise is likely to be met simply through playing, additional activities could include walking to school.
With at least one third of American adults being obese, I wonder how many parents are going to follow such guidelines when many are unhealthily overweight themselves. Close to 25% of British adults are obese, and experts estimate that by 2050, at the present rate of increase, about 90% of adults will be heavy.
At present, only about 5% of Britons meet the government's minimum physical activity advice - namely about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week, including some every day.
We can only hope that if parents and child carers are encouraged to provide exercise opportunities for young children, some of that will rub off on the adults too.
Here are the suggestions for babies who are not yet walking
- Both British and American child experts say parents should limit the amount of time babies spend in swings, bouncy seats or other equipment while they're awake.
- For babies who can't walk yet, physical activity should be encouraged from birth, including infants playing on their stomachs or having swimming sessions with their parents.
- Floor-based play encourages infants to use their muscles and helps bone development.
In Britain, it is recommended that older children from the age of 5 and up to 18 should have at least one hour of exercise and that this should include intensive activities to strengthen muscles and bones.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that the same age groups should be getting at least one hour of physical activity every day.
I fear that in many cases, children and teenagers are receiving a lot less exercise than that recommended.