Research finds health benefits from free play

March 3, 2014

Cheap items like crates and buckets encourage children to be more active and creative than expensive play equipment, researchers have found. The findings are the result of a long-term study by RMIT University researchers in Melbourne, Australia, into the play differences of primary school children with access to different playgrounds. Introducing simple, everyday objects during recess and lunchtime can cut sedentary behaviour by half, improve creativity and boost social and problem solving skills, the research shows.

Recent study results have been published in the international journal BMC Public Health. The two-year research project, led by Dr Brendon Hyndman from the School of Medical Sciences, found traditional school playgrounds may be stifling imaginative and energetic .

"Conventional playgrounds are designed by adults - they don't actually take into consideration how the children want to play," Dr Hyndman said. "At a time when childhood obesity is growing and playgrounds are shrinking, we need a creative approach to stimulate physical activity among schoolchildren."

The RMIT study involved 120 students, aged between five and 12, from the newly-built Emmaus Catholic Primary School in Ballarat, a regional town in the Australian state of Victoria. Their results were compared with another in the area which had traditional play equipment such as monkey bars and slides.

Buckets, pipes, exercise mats, hay bales and swimming pool noodles were placed in the play areas at Emmaus and researchers recorded the students' behaviour. Sedentary behaviour, defined as sitting or standing around the playground, fell from 61.5 per cent of children to 30.5 per cent during the study.

Students who played with everyday household objects took 13 more steps per minute and played more intensively and vigorously compared to those using the traditional playground.

"These results could be applied to anywhere that children play and shift the debate on the best way to keep our healthy."

Explore further: Natural playgrounds more beneficial to children, inspire more play

More information: Brendon P Hyndman, Amanda C Benson, Shahid Ullah and Amanda Telford. "Evaluating the effects of the Lunchtime Enjoyment Activity and Play (LEAP) school playground intervention on children's quality of life, enjoyment and participation in physical activity." BMC Public Health 2014, 14:164 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-164

Related Stories

Natural playgrounds more beneficial to children, inspire more play

October 11, 2012
Children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds with metal and brightly colored equipment, according to a recent ...

What's motivating child's play?

April 16, 2013
Altering parents' and teachers' notion of risk taking behaviour can significantly increase children's physical activity suggests a study lead by University of Sydney researchers.

Low influence of playgrounds on child activity: study

December 21, 2011
Upgrading playgrounds does not appear to be sufficient to help children become more active.

Bigger play areas for kids cut obesity risk

October 9, 2012
The global fight against obesity could be helped by providing support for child's play, a researcher from The University of Western Australia has found.

Poorer neighborhoods often have less safe playgrounds

January 21, 2013
(HealthDay)—Most playgrounds are safe for children, but many of them—particularly those in poorer neighborhoods—need improvement, a Chicago-area survey found.

Study identifies ways children can meet recommended activity goals

March 13, 2013
Despite overwhelming evidence about the benefits of physical activity for children, most American youngsters are not meeting the federal recommendation of 60 minutes a day.

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.