Playing is good for children’s health. But a little more of playtime is a sure prescription for it. According to health experts, physical activity for children between 5 and 16 years of age should be increased from an hour a day to as much as an hour and a half.
For some parents, that might be accomplished simply by showing their children the door.
"Just make sure children play outside. It will double the amount of physical activity they get," said Dr Lars Bo Andersen, lead author of the study published on Friday in the Lancet.
The study considered 1,732 nine-year-olds and 15-year-olds from Denmark, Estonia and Portugal. Physical activity was monitored for four consecutive days by strapping little machines to the children's hips, which monitored acceleration in body movements.
However, parents shouldn't think a radical change in children's routine is necessary. "We don't need to be getting kids running in the gym on treadmills," said Nick Cavill, a research associate in the public health department at Oxford University.
One of the study's key findings, he explained, is that it proves the utility of short bursts of activity, rather than a need for continuous exercise.
Physical activity does not demand intense exercise. "5-10 minutes of activity, where kids run for a while and then stop will suffice,” Cavill said.