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Do babies really need 3 hours of exercise a day?
In a new campaign against obesity, the British government urges parents to unstrap kids from their strollers and let them work up a (mild) sweat
 
While the U.S. only issues exercise guidelines for children over 6, the British government is targeting preschoolers.
While the U.S. only issues exercise guidelines for children over 6, the British government is targeting preschoolers.
Fiona Jackson-Downes and Dirk Lindner/cultura/Corbis

Grown-ups aren't the only ones who need a good workout to fight obesity. A new advisory from the British government says even babies need to get out of their strollers and get more exercise. Here, a brief guide to the U.K.'s push to whip toddlers into shape:

How much exercise do babies supposedly need?
At least three hours a day, according to the report. And it's not just babies — the advisory applies to all kids under age 5. Exercise improves brain development in infants, but that's not all. "Our childhood and teenage years are where we develop habits and lifestyles that generally continue throughout our adult life," says Maura Gillespie, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the British Heart Foundation, in a statement quoted by The Wall Street Journal.  "So it's vital that parents introduce [little kids] to fun and physically active pastimes to help prevent them becoming obese children."

How serious is the problem?
In the U.K., one child in 10 ages 2 to 10 is obese (compared to 17 percent of children and adolescents in the comparitively chubbier U.S.). Adults are worse off — roughly a quarter of British grown-ups qualify as obese. And overweight children run a higher risk of growing into overweight adults, which puts them at risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Despite the danger, this is the first time the U.K. has issued exercise guidance for kids under 5.

What kind of exercise are we talking about?
Nothing as hard-core as going to the gym. The U.K. health guidance says kids just need to spend less time slumped in front of the TV and more time being active. That can mean swimming, running, playing games such as tag, or simply walking or skipping to school. It's not a big change: British children under 5 already get between 2 and 2.5 hours of this kind of exercise daily now. For babies, activity as simple as crawling or rolling on a mat will do.

Is this like Michelle Obama's exercise push?
Yes and no. The first lady's "Let's Move" initiative focuses on making school lunches healthier and getting kids to exercise more, but it isn't aimed at preschoolers. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued physical activity recommendations for children from 6 to 17, but not for younger ones.

Sources: BBC News, Wall St. Journal, International Business Times, Health Affairs

 

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