The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

It’s accepted that regular exercise and keeping active are important to human health. This also applies to children under five — in fact it’s incredibly important during this crucial time in their development. In this article, we’ll take a look at the many benefits of exercise for the very young — and how much physical activity is recommended for toddlers and children in their early years.

Here we look at recommended exercise times for early yearsWhat are the Recommendations for Early Years Exercise?

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends1 that children under five should engage in at least 3 hours of physical activity each day, spread out over the course of the day. They go on to say:

“Children under the age of 5 should avoid being inactive for long periods. Watching TV for hours or being strapped into a buggy for too long isn’t good for their health and development.” (NHS)

This should come as no surprise, of course, but it’s important to take on board; official guidance is likely to be based upon decades of historical health data.

Meanwhile, as cited in Downing Street’s 2017 ‘Action Plan’ to fight childhood obesity, the UK’s chief medical officers also recommended 180 minutes (3 hours) of physical activity for children under five. (CMO UK Physical Activity Guidelines). Once again the suggestion is that this should be spread out through the day.

There are many benefits of active play for young childrenWhat are the Benefits of Early Years Exercise?

Exercise and physical activity in preschoolers and under-fives has many benefits. These include:

  • Firstly, it’s great fun for children! Indeed, energetic games and activities for young kids should be seen as an essential part of childhood.
  • It helps build up muscle strength and fitness.
  • It helps children to develop stronger bones.
  • Right from birth, physical activity and movement are significant in the creation of nerve connections in the brain
  • It naturally burns off calories that have been consumed by children through food/drink intake. This is particularly important if they have been ingesting superfluous calories or less-than-healthy things like sweets, sugary drinks or fatty junk food (although it’s best to avoid those, of course).
  • Regular exercise, in tandem with healthy eating, thereby helps children to maintain healthy weights and body mass indices. This is important because overweight youngsters are more prone to become overweight adults. It’s therefore an excellent approach to nip any weight problems in the bud, at this early age.
  • Avoiding weight problems through regular physical activity — and healthy, balanced eating — also helps reduce the likelihood of heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure later in life.

Regular exercise, in tandem with healthy eating, helps maintain a healthy weight & body mass index

  • Active play helps to improve social skills, behaviour and confidence in children.
  • Attention levels can also be seen to improve.
  • Regular exercise also helps children’s quality of sleep.
  • Physical activity helps the young to improve coordination and motor/movement skills.
  • It also helps to improve children’s moods and dispositions.

So, all in all, active play, physical activities and exercise are of huge benefit to children’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

Startling Facts

“One in five children are already overweight or obese before they start school” (NHS)

“[Only] one in ten children aged two to four meets the UK chief medical officers’ physical activity guidelines for this age group.” (NHS)

How parents can help children get enough exercise to stay healthy & fitHow Parents can Help

When at home, away from nursery or pre-school, parents can also encourage children to stay physically active so as to maintain their 180 minutes of active play each day. As well as all the usual activities that can be encouraged (football, netball, tag, formal exercise etc.) there are a number of excellent resources available for additional ideas. For example, Change 4 Life have a handy resource of physical activity-based games that young children can play. Even better, they’re inspired by characters from Disney and Pixar, so are going to prove very popular among the young. The character-based games are sure to inspire children to get active and have fun at the same time. Choose a game to see how it works.

“Remember, if you’re concerned about your child’s weight then your GP, practice nurse, school nurse or health visitor can give you help and advice.” (NHS advice)

How Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham helps children get enough physical activityActive Play & Exercise at Little Cedars Day Nursery, Streatham

As one of the key focuses of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, physical development is at the core of the curriculum at Little Cedars Day Nursery. As such, children of all ages are encouraged to exercise through active play, every single day. Children are encouraged to be physically active via a variety of well thought-out physical activities and challenges, as appropriate for their particular age group. This is all carefully orchestrated and supervised by the staff and ‘Key Person’ allocated to each particular child. A whole myriad of high quality facilities, interactive equipment and toys also help to ensure that every child has a varied range of activities to enjoy. They have immense fun while their brains, minds and bodies develop along the way.

Nursery places for babies, toddlers and children in Streatham

Are you looking for an outstanding nursery in Streatham for your child? Or perhaps you’re nearby and are looking for high quality nurseries in or near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Tooting, Furzedown or Balham? If so, we currently have a few spaces left, so please do get in touch while they’re still available.

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Sugar is one of the main causes of childhood obesityFollowing on from our post last month about healthy eating for under-fives, we thought we’d take a look at what can be done when eating has got a bit out of control in that age group. Childhood obesity has become a hot topic in recent times. Even the UK Government has weighed in with various initiatives being launched in the fight against it.

The shocking statistics

Childhood obesity is important to address because the National statistics are quite shocking:

  • Almost a third of children aged between 2 and 15 are either overweight or obese;
  • Children are becoming obese at ever-younger ages;
  • Once obese, children are remaining so for longer;
  • Obesity doubles the risk of premature death;
  • Once adulthood is reached, the chance of obese people developing Type 2 Diabetes is SEVEN times greater.
  • Obese people suffer more from heart disease and depression.

The link between background and obesity

Statistics from studies show that children living in deprived areas are most at risk from developing weight problems. Low-income families are affected the worst and in fact the risk of obesity in five year olds in low-income families is twice that of their more affluent counterparts. By the time they reach the age of eleven, the risk increases to three times for the children from poorer backgrounds.

What can parents do to help?

The positive impact of exercise on childrenLast month we published an excellent article about healthy eating for under-fives. There is lots of useful information there about children eating the right food types, correct portion sizes and much more — take a look. However, remaining at a healthy weight is not only about eating a healthy diet.

Parents can also help by ensuring that their children get regular exercise. This can be done through lifestyle choices that can be instilled into children from a very early age. For example, playing sports, gym exercise, walking, hiking and other physical activities. Indeed, research shows that building an active lifestyle that also involves healthy eating choices is one that can stick with the children even into adulthood.

The positive impact of exercise

Ensuring children get enough exercise is incredibly important in the fight against childhood, and indeed adult, obesity. After all, usually at the heart of obesity is a mismatch between the energy taken in as food/drink and the energy expended via physical activity.

Exercise is a key component of healthy living for under-fivesHowever, regular exercise has many other potential benefits aside from the management of physical weight and body mass. These include:

  • Stronger muscles and bones;
  • Natural fitness and agility;
  • A better quality of sleep;
  • Less likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, depression etc.;
  • Evidence also suggests that academic performance is also likely to improve with regular exercise and involvement in sports etc.

Each year, the NHS spends more on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than it spends on the police, fire service and judicial system put together.

What is the Government doing to help fight childhood obesity?

The Government has a ten year plan to fight childhood obesityThe Government launched its ten year ‘Plan for Action’ to fight childhood obesity back in 2017 and has continued to expand the scheme since then. This initiative was timely in light of the strain that obesity puts on the NHS, made only worse by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As well as raising awareness of the issues surrounding childhood obesity, measures include things like the so-called ‘sugar tax’, where soft drinks are subject to a levy in order to persuade manufacturers to move towards healthier, reduced-sugar alternatives (a 20% reduction in sugar is a key aim). A similar campaign is being applied to sugar in foods, particularly those that appeal to children. For example, biscuits, confectionery, breakfast cereal, cakes, ice cream and suchlike. The aim is to eventually set caps on the amount of sugar and/or calories per 100g of product. Public Health England (‘PHE’) will monitor manufacturers’ responses to their campaigns and will apply additional “incentives” to improve should they be found wanting as time progresses.

The Government’s anti-obesity initiative also aims to develop a ‘nutrient profile’ model for food, to make healthy options more accessible in the public sector and to provide support towards the cost of healthy meals for those who need it most. Along with this, at least one hour’s exercise per day is now given as an official guideline for children of primary school age and older. Schools and early years settings are also receiving Government support with greater coordination of high quality sport and physical activity programmes being rolled out. Guidelines have also been announced to discourage the display of unhealthy foods at checkouts and to avoid them being included in any buy-one-get-one-free deals in supermarkets. There is now also talk of a ban on the advertising of junk food on TV or online before 9pm. You can learn more about what the Government is doing to tackle childhood obesity on their website.

What nurseries and schools can do

Some of the outdoor nursery equipment at Little Cedars, StreathamAt Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, we take physical development of children very seriously, so physical education is something that all children have available to them. All children are encouraged to be active, and interactive, so as to remain fit and to be able to hone their physical and motor skills. Indeed, this is a core element of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework that forms the basis of our curriculum.

We have excellent playing and learning equipment including extensive outdoor play areas at the nursery. These give children ample opportunities for physical activity of various kinds — and they’re also great fun! As well as helping to keep children naturally fit and healthy, the physical activity also helps them to learn new skills including hand-eye coordination, balance and so on.

Healthy eating is, of course, also part of our DNA at the setting. All food is freshly prepared by our in-house chef and uses only high quality, fresh ingredients. We serve 3 well-balanced meals and 2 healthy snacks to children attending all day, along with fresh water that’s available any time.

Are you looking for nursery places in or around Streatham?

If you’re looking for a suitable nursery for your baby or toddler in or around London SW16, we would love to hear from you. Little Cedars is a nursery and pre-school in Aldrington Road, Streatham, so is very convenient if you need high quality childcare close to Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. We offer childcare for babies aged 3 months right up to pre-school children aged 5. Call 020 8677 9675 for further information, email us here or book a visit here. We look forward to hearing from you!

This article is for general guidance only. Always seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about your baby or child’s health and wellbeing.