UNDER-fives should exercise for at least three hours a day, new guidelines say. Government health experts believe babies should be taken swimming and encouraged to do "gymnastic exercise".
And toddlers should walk for at least 15 minutes when on routine journeys such as trips to the nursery. The exercise guidelines, the first for youngsters of this age, will be issued this week amid growing fears over spiralling childhood obesity.
Chief medical officer Sally Davies said: "There is considerable evidence that letting children crawl, play or roll around on the floor is essential during early years. "Play that allows under-fives to move about is critical and three hours a day is essential.
"I think there are parents who are not aware how important it is for their children to be physically active for a minimum of three hours."
NHS figures show nearly a quarter of youngsters aged four and five are overweight or obese. Experts predict that 63 per cent of children could be overweight by 2050 if the trend continues. Professor Fiona Bull, whose committee wrote the guidelines, said parents should "turn the TV off".
She added: "We are putting children in chairs and sticking them in front of the telly. We are putting them in car chairs and driving them to places." The advice follows warnings earlier this month that Britain faces a liver disease "timebomb" because so many children are overweight.
The Health Department's Professor Martin Lombard said a culture of over-eating was putting the lives of more than 500,000 young people at risk.
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