Increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior are logical and accepted strategies for maintaining energy balance and preventing excessive weight gain. Recent evidence-based publications from government agencies, often developed using recommendations from scientific panels, affirm the importance of physical activity in reducing the risk of excessive weight gain. For example, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (USDA and HHS, 2010) counsels that for Americans 2 years of age and older, “Strong evidence supports that regular participation in physical activity also helps people maintain a healthy weight and prevent excess weight gain.” The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation (HHS, 2010) argues that “physical activity can help control weight, reduce risk for many diseases (heart disease and some cancers), strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mental health, and increase your chances of living longer.” The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (HHS, 2008a), targeted to children over 6 years of age and adults, states, “Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes a healthy body weight and body composition.”
This chapter thus presents policy and practice recommendations aimed at increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behavior in young children. Specifically, the recommendations in this chapter are intended to (1) increase young children’s physical activity in child care and other settings, (2) decrease young children’s sedentary behavior in child care and other settings, and (3) help adults adopt policies and practices that will increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior in young children. Each of these recommendations includes potential actions for its implementation. Recommendations for infants are included in an effort to highlight the need to begin obesity prevention practices in early life. The recommendations in this chapter target child care regulatory agencies, child care providers, early childhood educators, communities, colleges and universities, and national organizations for health and education professionals, urging them to collectively adopt policies and practices that will promote physical activity and limit sedentary behavior in young children.
Recommendation 3-1: Child care regulatory agencies should require child care providers and early childhood educators to provide infants, toddlers, and preschool children with opportunities to be physically active throughout the day.