New guidance – 3 hours of activity for young children

There seems to be a convergence of new advice in the USA, Australia, and the UK recommending that young children (under 5-6 years, depending on the country) should be getting 3 hours of activity a day. This is a step-up from the previous advice of 60 minutes per day (which interesting remains the recommendation in the UK for children and young people aged 5-18 years).

The new guidelines appear to be a response to increasing obesity rates in these countries in young children. Plus, studies using accelerometers seem to suggest that young children rarely get the activity they need. Pre-schoolers tend to get only sporadic exercise, with very little of it classed as vigorous.

The new recommendations follow the theme of varying light and energetic activity throughout the day. Lighter activity can be classed as walking (e.g. 15 minutes of walking as part of going to nursery, play-group, the library etc). More energetic activities include riding a bike, dancing, swimming, skipping, and active games like hide and seek.

It is interesting that the Chief Medical Officer for England accepts that many parents may under-estimate the importance of physical activity for young children, especially before they can walk. Equally, they may over-estimate the amount of activity their children engage in. According to NHS figures, nearly a quarter of children aged four and five are overweight or obese. Experts predict that by 2050 this could apply to 63% of children.