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Physical Activity Levels in N.C. Child Care Centers Assessed

Play activity opportunities and support found to be just average for most centers under guidelines

MONDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Most child care centers evaluated in North Carolina do not meet optimum standards for child play activity under the newly-developed Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAPSACC) guidelines, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in Pediatrics.

Christina McWilliams, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues evaluated a sample of 96 child care centers across North Carolina against the NAPSACC guidelines, which recommend eight components to promote child activity -- active play opportunities, a fixed play environment, portable play environment, sedentary opportunities, sedentary environment, staff behavior, staff training/education, and physical activity policies.

The authors found that approximately 50 percent of the centers scored three stars on the one- to five-star rating system, while 5 percent had one-star ratings and 11 percent had five-star ratings. Most centers had the recommended fixed play equipment (such as climbing structures) and portable play equipment (96 and 100 percent, respectively), though types and quantity varied. However, few had indoor facilities for gross motor activity (16 percent), while staff at 61 percent of centers did not actively play with the children, and only 13.7 percent of centers provided the recommended 120 minutes of active playtime.

"Our results showed that only a few of the best-practice guidelines were achieved by a majority of the 96 North Carolina child care centers that participated in this study. Establishing comprehensive guidelines for physical activity at child care could result in higher activity levels and healthier children, but more research is needed," McWilliams and colleagues conclude.

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