Children need at least 1 hr of exercise daily

The education ministry recommends children get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day to raise their physical strength, which is hovering at a low level nationwide.

Last year, the ministry drew up guidelines that give specific examples of recommended activities according to a child's stage of development.

A survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry found that the physical strength and athletic capabilities of children above primary school age peaked around 1985, then dropped.

The ministry believes lack of exercise during childhood is one reason for the decline.

The survey covered 21 municipalities over three years from fiscal 2007 and was aimed at grasping the correlation between regular exercise and children's physical strength.

Results showed that children who actively play with friends tend to have higher athletic ability.

In a separate study, a group of university teachers observed the athletic ability of 5,000 to 10,000 preschoolers aged 4 to 6 nationwide six times from 1966 through 2008.

Working with kindergartens and nursery schools, the group conducted a 25-meter run and a ball-throwing test.

Average results for all age groups showed that children's physical strength peaked between 1973 to 1986, then dropped and leveled off since 1997.

Children's stamina, measured by how long they could hold themselves up with their arms by placing their hands on boxes, showed a marked decrease. The average duration was about 30 seconds for early 4-year-old boys before 1986, but less than 20 seconds in surveys after 1997.

Izumi Yoshida, an associate professor at Tokyo Gakugei University, believes modern conveniences are partly to blame for children's falling strength.

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