Research finds that activity levels in families and the amount of sleep a toddler receives are linked to an increased risk of obesity

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) welcomes new research published this week in Paediatricsi that establishes a direct, positive association between physical activity in four year old children and their mothers – the more activity the mother did, the more active the child. In addition, another study from the University College London, published in International Journal of Obesityii highlighted that toddlers that received less than ten hours sleep ate 10% more calories than those who slept for longer, which put this group at a greater risk of obesity.

This new evidence supports the ITF’s Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers programme which encourages toddlers to engage in 3 hours of physical activity and 12 hours of sleep per day and highlights the important role parents have to play in developing healthy habits early on in life.

Judy More, paediatric dietician and ITF member said: “Whilst good nutrition will go a long way to optimising health, growth and development in young children, parents and health professionals must not underestimate the importance of activity and sleep too. Encouraging active play, active lifestyles and regular sleep patterns is critical for physical and mental health and development. Physical activity in the toddler years is vital for developing the physical skills, coordination and confidence to ensure enjoyment and participation in sport throughout their school life thus reducing the likelihood of obesity and the risks of developing heart disease and diabetes later in life.”

Celebrating its ten year anniversary, the ITF is taking a life course approach to nutrition and health, exploring the early connection through pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood. Our aim is to support and empower families to make healthy lifestyle choices by delivering clear, practical advice on those critical early windows of opportunity to provide children with the best start in life.


i. Activity Levels in Mothers and Their Preschool Children, Pediatrics, 24th March 2014. Available at Last accessed 26.03.14

ii. International Journal of Obesity, Last accessed 26.03.14

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Further Reading

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