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The Dangerous Thing Not Happening at Daycare

Photograph by Twenty20

Young kids don't get out and run around like they used to, we all know that. And it's not just when they're at home, where screens are everywhere. A new study found that toddlers and preschoolers are getting nowhere close to the recommended time outdoors when they're at daycare and preschool.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center reported the findings in their Preschool Eating and Activity Study, published in the most recent edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The researchers studied 380 kids ages 3 to 6, who were enrolled in 30 different childcare centers between November 2009 and January 2011. While 90 percent of the centers reported they scheduled two or more recess periods every day, only 40 percent of the enrolled children took part in the outdoor play time. More than 30 percent had zero time outdoors.

Pediatric guidelines set a minimum of 60 minutes of daily full-on outdoor play but, overall, only 3 in 10 children came even close to meeting that.

Kristen Copeland, MD, a researcher in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics and senior author of the study, said that even this minimum amount is crucial to good health for young and growing children.

"We know daily physical activity is essential for children's growth and development," Copeland said. "It improves cardiovascular and bone health and has been linked to improved mood, attention and cognitive performance."

The study recommends that daycares and preschools in climates where weather often keeps kids indoors should rework the indoor space to accommodate the need to be broadly physical. They also encouraged centers to take kids out even in bad weather, if only for a short amount of time.

"These opportunities may be especially important for children who lack opportunities to be active at home," Copeland said.

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