When children’s daily physical activity is reduced, their health is negatively impacted. Sedentary behaviour and physical activity are both important factors when examining the contribution of both behaviours to the health of children and adolescents. Children’s opportunity to be active is curtailed in a number of ways: i) commuting by car is generally favoured, ii) because of the increase in crime, parents’ concern for their children’s safety causes them to discourage play in the local neighbourhoods, iii) the rapid growth of new technologies keeps children glued to a screen for hours and iv) many communities have failed to invest in amenities that enhance movement e.g. parks.
According to Chaput et al, (2020) the World Health Organization estimates that more than 42 million pre-school children are overweight, with a high percentage leading a sedentary lifestyle. In Greece, obesity rates for children up to 6 years old are close to 24% and their physical activity levels are below desirable levels.
WHO recommends it
The physical activity of basic motor skills in the early years of a child’s life play an important role as motor skills influence a child’s physical, social and perceptual development (Payne 1995). It has been found that appropriate encouragement and constructive feedback during children’s learning is even more helpful (Jones et al, 2011). The scientific community seems to have accepted that 10,000 steps a day has beneficial effects. In fact, emerging evidence suggests that it is possible that this number of steps can lead to significant health benefits for children, while also reducing the rates of overweight and obese children (Tudor-Locke et al, 2011).
In 2011, it was found that the minimum recommended time of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity activities was associated with 10,000-14,000 steps a day in children of preschool age (4-6 years) (Tudor-Locke et al, 2011). Total sedentary time and prolonged schooling – eg, increased hours in a classroom – create significant negative health effects (Healy et al, 2008).
As stated above, a daily average of 60 minutes of moderate to high intensity physical activity while limiting sedentary and screen time during the day will lead to significant health benefits. There is sufficient evidence indicating that ‘regular physical activity in children’ impacts: i) physical fitness, ii) bone health, iii) adipose tissue, iv) mental health (eg, high self-esteem), v) cognitive outcomes (e.g., academic performance), vi) sleep duration and quality, and vii) positive social behaviour (eg, peer relationships).
The Moki band
The new program that Mystiko Kleidi will be implementing this year for children aged 5-6 will require the children to wear a wristband pedometer at all times while they are at school. The Moki band is a pedometer wristband and software that has been designed specifically for schools, and is currently being used around the world to help schools engage their students in an active curriculum.
By using these pedometers to record the children’s daily activity and sedentary periods, the information recorded could help policymakers at the school to implement a more active curriculum that encourages school children to increase their amount of physical activity throughout the year.
In summary, the kindergarten Mystiko Kleidi is carrying an intermediate program that will follow the World Health Organization guidelines for daily movement and steps for children aged between 5 and 6 years old.
ReferencesChaput, J P, Willumsen, J, et al (2020) 2020 WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior for children and adolescents aged 5-17 years: summary of the evidence. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17(1), 1-9. jbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-020-01037-z
Jones, R A , Riethmuller, A, Hesketh, K, et al (2011) Promoting fundamental movement skill development and physical activity in early childhood settings: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Pediatric Exercise Science, 23, 600-615.
Tudor-Locke, C, Craig, C L, Beets, M W (2011). How many steps are enough? For children and adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8, 78.
Healy, G N , Dunstan, D W, et al (2008) Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care, 31, 661-666.
Payne, G. & Isaacs, D (1995) Human Motor Development: A Lifespan Approach, 3rd ed. London: Mayfield Publishing Company.
Georgios Moschos Teacher of Physical Education of Mystiko Kleidi and Phd Candidate University of Thessaly, School of Physical Education and Sport Science Mairi Bitou Head Teacher of Kindergarten of Mystiko Kleidi
Kindergarten Mystiko Kleidi