WEDNESDAY, May 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) — There is room for improvement in provision of physical activity opportunities during child care, according to a study published online May 18 in Pediatrics.

Maria H. Boyle, R.D., from Abt Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and colleagues describe physical activity opportunities and sedentary occasions for children aged 1 to 5 years at programs participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Child and Adult Care Food Program. An observer in each classroom reported designated outdoor and indoor playspaces; minutes children spent in playspaces; barriers and facilitators to physical activity; and classroom time when most children were physically active, sedentary, or neither for one observation day. Outdoor physical activity opportunity counts and total physical activity opportunity durations were compared to national guidelines. Data were recorded for 227 classrooms: 96 in child care centers and 131 in Head Start programs.

The researchers found that all classrooms had sedentary times outside of meals, snacks, and naps; almost all offered physical activity opportunities. Of the programs, 74 percent met national guidance relating to sufficient number of outdoor opportunities, weather permitting; 50 percent met the guidance of at least 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity daily; and 43 percent met both sets of guidance. Seventy-four and 31 fewer minutes were devoted to physical activity, respectively, in association with weather and staff not joining in outdoor play.

“Ensuring a time and place for outdoor activity, adhering to daily physical activity schedules, and promoting staff engagement in active play may improve opportunities for U.S. children to engage in regular physical activity critical for healthy development,” the authors write.

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