Newswise — Less screen time and more playtime is the message in MyActivity Pyramid, a guide to physical activity for children ages 6 to 11, developed by University of Missouri-Columbia Extension health educators.
"We really want kids to be active up to several hours a day," said Steve Ball, assistant professor of exercise physiology and a state fitness specialist. "Regular physical activity is important to overall health, and school-aged children need at least 60 minutes every day."
With a design similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid food guide, MyActivity Pyramid will seem familiar to kids. The cartoon-like drawings and multiple activity levels in the MyActivity Pyramid show kids what kind of activity they need and how much.
Everyday activities - where children should accumulate most of the physical activity time - are at the bottom of the pyramid. These activities, make-up the largest area of MyActivity Pyramid, can include playing four square at recess, shooting hoops or riding a bike after school.
The next level describes more vigorous activities that children need at least three to five times a week, Ball said. These active aerobic and recreational activities include sports, jogging or running, rollerblading and playground games.
Flexibility and strength activities fill the third level of MyActivity Pyramid. Two to three times a week, children should be involved in activities that promote muscle fitness and flexibility, such as stretching, push-ups, practicing martial arts or yoga, Ball said.
"Many activities that young children enjoy can fit into more than one level. Ideally, kids will accumulate their 60 minutes, and up to several hours a day, from all three levels," Ball said.
The very top of MyActivity Pyramid, occupying the least amount of space, represents inactive time. Ball said watching TV or playing video and computer games should be limited to two hours or less each day.
MyActivity Pyramid has an accompanying activity log to help children chart their own activity on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.