The Doctor Recommends: Toddlers Should Get Three Daily Hours of Exercise

A new government movement in Britain to reduce obesity has prescribed a minimum of three hours of daily activity for toddlers. While the guidance has only been issued there for now, parents of toddlers in the U.S. may want to take notice as well.

Health professionals have suggested that under-five-year-olds walk fifteen minutes during routine trips, such as walks to the nursery or supermarket. If the child is still too young to walk, they should be allowed time to crawl, roll and/or play on a ‘baby gym’ activity mat, instead of being confined in to a crib, stroller or swing for hours on end.

The new baby exercise trend comes as a result of obesity fears, as more than a quarter of both boys and girls are overweight before they even start school. Experts have projected that two-thirds of children will be too heavy for their height by 2050.

The advice was issued by England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, who said children “should spend as little time as possible being restrained or sitting, except when they are sleeping.”

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She suggested activities like running, ball games, swimming, skipping, riding a bike or climbing. Young babies should be able to stretch and roll on activity mats and even taken swimming.

“There is considerable international evidence that letting children crawl, play or roll around on the floor is essential during early years,” the professor said. “Play that allows under-fives to move around is critical and three hours a day is essential. I think there are parents who are not aware of how important it is for their children to be physically active. Other parents are very busy and may not see how important it is to get that prioritization and balance right. This matters to your child now, to their development through childhood and adolescence and to their disease profile in middle-age and later life.”