US kids miss set goals for exercise, screen time

January 10, 2013

Most US elementary school-aged children are not meeting recommended daily goals for physical activity nor are they within daily limits for screen time, says new research.

Most US elementary school-aged children are not meeting recommended daily goals for physical activity nor are they within daily limits for screen time, says new research.

The cross-sectional study examined data for 1,218 children aged 6 to 11 years from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for proxy reports on how much each child exercised daily and how much time the child spent each day watching television, using a computer or tablet, or playing video games.

Results showed that although 70% of the children met recommendations for at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily and 54% reported screen time of 2 hours or less per day, only 38% met both criteria concurrently.

Being consistent with 1 goal did not predict meeting the other. Children with low levels of screen time were no more likely to meet the physical activity goal than children whose screen time exceeded the recommended daily limit.

Sedentary behavior was found to be more prevalent in girls, in children aged 9 to 11 years, in Hispanic children, in children with obesity, and among children from higher-income households.

The researchers advise that because the survey answers were given by proxy, usually parents, the study results could be subject to bias. However, the findings support the necessity for additional interventions and programs designed to prevent childhood obesity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the goals of 60 minutes of physical activity a day and screen time of 2 hours or less per day for children and adolescents.