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Britain Says Preschoolers and Babies Need Daily Exercise

How young is too young for daily exercise? The British government would tell you that threshold doesn't exist, even for babies and toddlers.

The U.K. Department of Health issued new health guidelines this week that call for regular daily exercise for all citizens—including those under age 5.

The new guidelines noteRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader that current physical-activity recommendations target only those citizens 5 and older, whether explicitly stated or not. With a recent study revealing that Britain has the highest obesity-related death rate in Europe, according to the Daily Mail, the British government has begun targeting the early-years population to reverse the obesity trend.

According to the recommendations, British citizens should encourage physical activity in their children from birth, particularly in the form of floor-based and water-based activities. The guidelines also recommend that all British citizens—including the population younger than 5—minimize the amount of time spent being sedentary (except while sleeping), calling these activities "obesogenic" (or obesity-promoting).

Ultimately, the guidelines call for three hours of daily physical activity for children younger than 5 who can walk. The researchers note that most U.K. preschoolers already receive anywhere from 120-150 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis, so they're only suggesting adding 30-60 extra minutes per day.

For infants who can't yet walk, the Dept. of Health suggestsRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader physical activities such as "tummy time" (any time spent on the stomach, including rolling and playing on the floor), reaching for and grasping objects, and "parent and baby" swim lessons. Included as ways to reduce sedentary behavior: limiting time spent in infant carriers, car seats, or walking aids/baby bouncers.

According to the guidelines, children ages 5-18 should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, including bone/muscle strengthening activities three times a week. (For what it's worth, the National Association of Sport and Physical Education calls for similar levels of physical activity in U.S. 5-12-year-olds.)

"It's vital that parents introduce children to fun and physically active pastimes to help prevent them becoming obese children, who are likely to become obese adults at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers," said Maura Gillespie, head of Policy and Advocacy at the British Heart Foundation, in a statement, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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