A new study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine shows that only half of children in the country are receiving regular daily outdoor activity. This may not come as a surprise to many working parents, who are often too busy and stressed to provide an adequate amount of outdoor physical activity for themselves or their children, but the effects on children can be drastic and long lasting.
“It does make sense that for many parents who work outside the home…it’s not easy to have outdoor playtime with your children every day,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Tandon also spoke with Reuters Health, and said, “Parents try to balance and juggle lots of different priorities as to what we do with our children when we are spending time with them. We may be able to make some choices to allow us to choose to do an outdoor activity when we do have the time.”
Another issue raised by the study is the belief many parents have that their children are getting enough outdoor playtime during the day while attending pre-school or elementary school. In fact, many children are receiving a very small amount of playtime, and often go without any unstructured playtime, which goes against the guidelines from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
“There are kids that go out regardless of the weather, but in a lot of settings, they do more indoor recesses,” cautioned Tandon while discussing the outdoor play schedules of pre-schools.
The Association also recommends getting at least one hour of physical activity per day to help reduce childhood obesity and other weight related medical issues.
The study found more surprising information when it broke the information down by gender, race, and parental work situation. Only 24 percent of dads were found to spend daily outside time with their kids, whereas 44 percent of moms took the children outside. Total, only half of all children were found to go outside with either mom or dad on a daily basis. Minorities and girls were found to be the least likely to have outside playtime. Children who stayed exclusively at home during the day, instead of attending pre-school or elementary school, were also found to be much less likely to get outside playtime.
All experts recommend increasing outdoor playtime with young children for their benefit, and for the benefit of the parents.