DENVER – More is better when it comes to children’s toys, according to research presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 58th Annual Meeting and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine®. Providing choices is the key, experts say, to encouraging children – especially girls – to be physically active.
A University of Buffalo research team recently studied the effects of three toy quantities –one toy, three toys and five toys – on the activity levels of 36 children. Children, all ages 8-12, were sorted by gender and divided randomly among the groups. Researchers observed the children’s behaviors and monitored their heart rates and activity counts.
“Research has shown that increasing the variety or choice of foods a child is exposed to increases their overall energy intake,” said Denise Feda, Ph.D., lead author of this study. “Whether or not this variety principle applies to physical activity has been largely unstudied, however. Our team wanted to determine if increasing the number of active toys a child can choose from increases their physical activity.”
After 60 minutes of free play, researchers found that overall play time increased dramatically – by 95 percent – when children had three or five toys to play with. Most interestingly, by looking at heart rate data, researchers found providing choice of active toys appears to increase the intensity of play in girls more than boys.
“The results of this study are significant, considering the epidemic of childhood obesity plaguing this country,” said Feda, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Buffalo. “Adults looking for effective ways to increase their child’s exercise time should take a look at toy variety. Adding an active toy or two could help, especially for girls. Girls can be motivated to engage in equal physical activity as boys by simply providing them with a greater choice of active toys.”
ACSM and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents participate in at least one hour of physical activity each day.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine. Research highlighted in this news release has been presented at a professional meeting but has not been peer-reviewed.