Shanghai preschoolers shed pounds but get less sleep

Study compiles health data from nearly 10,000 of the city's youngsters.

Fewer preschoolers are overweight or obese but many are getting less sleep than doctors recommend, according a study by two city hospitals.

Researchers at Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital and Songjiang District Maternity and Child Care Hospital gathered data from nearly 10,000 children aged between 3 and 6. The children are enrolled in 174 schools in Jing’an, Songjiang and Minhang districts, and the Pudong New Area. 

The study examined several attributes of preschoolers’ physical health, such as motor skills, sleeping patterns and exercise habits. Time spent using electronic devices was also studied. 

Among the study’s findings, local preschoolers are exposed to electronic screens for an average of one hour per day, which is less than children elsewhere in China. However, they also get less sleep than the national average, according to the study.

As for weight, 14.97 percent of children studied were considered overweight and 9.27 percent were listed as obese, based on body-mass index. These figures represent a decline from similar data gathered in 2010, when 15.98 and 11.15 percent of youngsters were classified as overweight and obese respectively.

“This means local parents’ thinking on healthy diet and development have changed thanks to public education and doctors’ directions. Overweight and obese children have poorer performance in our survey on motor skills, fine motor and writing abilities, and coordination,” said Dr Hua Jing from Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital, who headed the survey.

Meanwhile, the average sleep time for local children is only 9.06 hours every day, below the 10 to 13 hours suggested by most professionals.

Abundant sleep is important for children’s development and parents should make sure their children are not exposed to electronic devices for at least two hours before bedtime, say doctors.

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