It seems we all need more exercise – including even our 3- to 5-year-olds.

A recent study suggests that many preschool programs aren’t providing enough time for physical activity for children. This is one of the first studies that looks at the activity levels of preschoolers.

According to the research, activity time varies widely among preschoolers, but most fall short in providing even half of the two hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity -- half in structured physical activity and the rest in unstructured, free-play settings --recommended for that age group by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Results found that children at preschools participated in about seven or eight minutes of at least moderate physical activity during a typical hour. Over an average six-hour day, children were not likely to meet the recommended activity requirement.

Other findings included that boys were more likely to participate in moderate or vigorous physical activity than girls, although no significant gender differences were found for time spent in light activity or sedentary programs. Also, 4- and 5-year-olds had significantly more sedentary intervals and significantly fewer times of light activity than 3-year-olds, and African-American children were more physically active than white children.

Published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study looked at 281 children in nine preschools in Columbia, S.C., including Head Start, church and private programs. The study was funded by a grant from the Gerber Products Co. Russ Pate at the University of South Carolina led the research.

Physical activity has been found to be important in a child's physical and social development, and more than 10 percent of all preschool children in the United States are overweight with about 11 percent in danger of becoming overweight, Pate said in a release about the research.