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Kids more active when playground has balls, jump ropes, UNC study shows
Date:12/11/2007

Children play harder and longer when their child care centers provide portable play equipment (like balls, hoola hoops, jump ropes and riding toys), more opportunities for active play and physical activity training and education for staff and students, according to a study published in the January 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health examined environmental factors that encourage children to be active with greater intensity and for longer periods of time. Increased activity levels help children maintain a healthy weight, the researchers say, which is critical as obesity rates climb nationwide, especially among children.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that threatens the future health of our nation, said Dianne Ward, EdD, MS, director of the School of Public Health nutrition departments intervention and policy division and a co-author of the study. We know that about 57 percent of all 3- to 5-year-olds in the United States attend child care centers, so its important to understand what factors will encourage them to be more active, and, hopefully, less likely to become obese.

Researchers assessed the physical and social environmental factors thought to influence healthy weight at 20 childcare centers across North Carolina. Then they evaluated the physical activity levels of children attending the centers. Additional data were gathered through interviews and documents provided by the child care directors.

The study showed that children had more moderate and vigorous physical activity and fewer minutes of sedentary activity when their center had more portable play equipment, including balls, hoola hoops, jump ropes and riding toys, offered more opportunities for active play (inside and outside), and had physical activity training and education for staff and students. Stationary equipment, like climbing structures, swings and balance beams, were
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