Indoor Fitness for Preschoolers: Is Your Classroom Fit?

Experts recommend that children, by the time they’re 5 years of age, should engage in moderate to vigorous physical fitness for at least 60 minutes of activity per day. Researchers found that children’s physical activity levels during preschool class sessions are correlated to the overall quality of the preschool and the availability of indoor area equipment.

A recent study revealed that multiple variables are correlated with preschool children’s daily physical activity levels. These variables include the preschool’s indoor fitness equipment, playground equipment, and the playground’s design and layout.

To test the possible correlations, researchers examined 43 randomly selected preschools, 23 of which also cared for toddlers. Healthy children ages 5 to 6 years old and their parents were invited to participate in the study.

Children’s physical activity levels were assessed using a monitor that was worn for 3 hours during preschool class sessions over the course of 4 weeks. Children’s monitor data was only valid if participants had worn the monitor for 3 full preschools days, with at least 3 hours of measurement – periods of non-wear time were deducted from the total. Participants’ motor coordination, size, and weight were also measured simultaneously during the school days.

The researchers found that preschoolers' activity level was not affected by the characteristics of the preschool staff (educational level, age, attitude) but was highly correlated with the individual characteristics of a child (motor coordination, size, weight).

Most notably, preschoolers' fitness levels were affected by the preschool’s fitness amenities, including the playground layout and design, and the amount of indoor fitness equipment the preschool provided per child. The more indoor fitness equipment and activities the preschool classroom had to offer, the better the fitness level of the students.

Indoor fitness equipment was especially beneficial due to accessibility, both in terms of proximity to the classroom and because it’s not weather-dependent. Although these findings may seem obvious to readers, this research information can help teachers and administrators plan to maximize student learning and health by investing in time and equipment for indoor fitness activities.

StepUp Summary:

Indoor fitness equipment such as indoor jungle gyms can be pricey for schools on a budget, however there are variety of hopscotch mats, bouncy animals, pop-up tunnels, or balance boards which offer affordablity and portability for indoor classroom use. Alternatively, there are many creative DIY ideas for encouraging physical activity with preschoolers, too. With colorful masking tape, frisbees, and bean bags, you can turn any classroom area into an indoor obstacle course, a hopscotch, or a simple running/walking pathway. Indeed just having a designated pathway available was all the encouragement students needed to run around in this study. With some imagination the classroom floor can be hot lava or a rushing river...frisbees or bean bags can be used for "safe" crossing. Your limit is your imagination! 

StepUp programs further emphasize the importance of physical fitness while learning. Each day students work through one complete level of exercises, which take about 20 minutes to complete. By integrating movement, rhythm, and repetition, StepUp programs helps children make permanent progress in reading, math, and handwriting.

Watch this video to see StepUp to Learn in action!


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