WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies
Engineering Physical Activity Out of Daily
Impact on Toddlers
Iíve often reflected on how much physical activity has been engineered out
of our lives. At a press of a button you can open a garage door, turn on the TV,
start your car, or even shut your draperies. There are now vacuums that can
clean your house while youíre at work. We have snow blowers to remove the snow
and riding lawn mowers to cut the grass. Itís no wonder most adults must make
a conscious effort to add physical activity back into their day, but surely
young children are not as dramatically impacted by this lower activity level.
Think again! A recent study published in The Lancet provided compelling
evidence that the physical activity level of toddlers is negatively impacted by
- Scientists from the University of Glasgow measured the actual physical
activity level of 78 Scottish three-year-old children. Each child wore an
accelerometer from the time they woke up until they went to bed. The device
gave researchers a minute-by-minute reading of the childís physical
activity. The scientists then completed a 24-month follow-up study with 72
- Three-year-old children spent only 20 minutes a day in moderate to
vigorous physical activity. By age five, the time increased to 35 minutes.
Both measurements were much lower than the physical activity recommendations
by several health organizations that indicate children should engage in
moderate to vigorous activity for at least one hour a day, and preferably 90
minutes or more each day.
- The study found that children were spending between nine and 10 hours of
their waking hours hardly moving at all. Television and videos were the main
culprits of inactive time. The children were sedentary approximately 80% of
their waking hours.
- The scientists reported that many adults including parents, educational
professionals, and health care providers hold a widespread belief that young
children are "spontaneously active." In the modern world of
television and parental time constraints, this belief is not only untrue,
but potentially harmful as children at a very young age face an imbalance of
calories eaten and calories burned.
- When contacted by the press, Dr. John Reilly, lead investigator for the
study, indicated he believed the findings accurately reflected the physical
activity level of most three- to five-year- old children in industrialized
- Several studies have established an urgent need to promote an increase in
physical activity level and a decrease in sedentary behaviors. This study
offers evidence that efforts to change physical activity behaviors must
start very early in the life cycle.
- Reilly JJ, Jackson DM, Montgomery C, Kelly LA, Slater C, Grant S, Paton JY.
Total energy expenditure and physical activity in young Scottish children:
mixed longitudinal study. The Lancet 2004;363:211-212.
- Picard A. A new generation of couch potatoes. The Globe, January
16, 2004. <www.globeandmail.com>
- Ross E. Study: Even toddlers not exercising enough. Associated Press, CNN.com,
January 30, 2004. <www.cnn.com>
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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