Newswise — Adding weight to toys may serve as a way to improve children's fitness, according to research at Indiana State University.
Professor John Ozmun and graduate student Lee Robbins conducted the study with 7- and 8-year-old children, who carried 3-pound weighted and unweighted cardboard blocks while wearing a portable metabolic unit that measured physiological characteristics.
"We conducted the research project to find out if you changed the weight of a toy, would there be an effect on certain fitness-related characteristics," said Ozmun, acting associate dean of ISU's College of Health and Human Performance, and physical education professor. "Our results showed that the extra weight in the blocks could be used to help improve children's fitness."
All of the factors studied — energy expenditure, heart rate, respiration and muscle activity — showed improvement with the weighted blocks, he said.
"What we found was that the children did burn more calories when they carried the weighted blocks," Ozmun said. "Their respiration and heart rates were higher, as well."
Ozmun and Robbins presented results from the study at the Centers for Disease Control International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health in Atlanta, Ga., April 17. Robbins presented additional findings related to the study at the Annual Meeting of American College of Sports Medicine in Denver, Colo., on May 31.
"Our study should be viewed as a spring board to further research," said Robbins, who graduated with a master's degree in physical education in May. "Our conclusions are based on measuring just a few children, and further research with young children is needed."
Further research could include using these weighted toys with children who are overweight or obese, the researchers said.
"We have this major obesity epidemic in our country, and we are seeing risk factors in the preschool-age population," Ozmun said. "Although these weighted toys are not the only answer to this major health issue, they may serve as a small puzzle piece that could make a positive contribution."
Children with disabilities or strength deficits also might benefit from further research with weighted toys, he said.
"There's the possibility of using these weighted toys in a pediatric physical therapy or a pediatric occupational therapy clinic for a child who has a disability such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome," Ozmun said. "Children with these conditions tend to have muscular strength deficits. Weighted toys might serve as a tool that could help a physical therapist or an occupational therapist with their therapeutic approaches."
Photos: Publication-quality, high-resolution photos are available at:http://www.indstate.edu/news/photodatabase/downloads/WeightedBlocksStudy.jpg http://www.indstate.edu/news/photodatabase/downloads/OzmunJohn2000.jpg http://www.indstate.edu/news/photodatabase/downloads/LeeRobbins.jpg