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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Solving Childhood Obesity

You were thinking that encouraging more exercise and fast food might be the only answer.  Well, apparently there are more creative minds at work than mine and they have developed new heavier toys to help with the childhood obesity problem.  CNN reports on this development:

Researchers at Indiana State University in Terre Haute tried a small experiment to test the effects of having kids play with heavier toys. They found that 10 children ages 6 to 8 burned more calories and had higher heart and breathing rates when they moved 3-pound toy blocks instead of unweighted blocks.

So could adding a small weight to stuffed animals and other toys help kids get fit?

"This is not going to solve the obesity problem," said John Ozmun, a professor who did the study with graduate student Lee Robbins. "But it has a potential to make a positive contribution."

Some experts caution that children could hurt themselves trying to lift too much too soon and said more activity is preferable to heavier toys. But all agree childhood obesity is a big problem. . . .

Kara Tucker, youth development coordinator for the National Institute for Fitness and Sport in Indianapolis, said active playing helps youngsters work out without realizing it.

Weighted toys might be another way to sneak in exercise, but not everyone thinks a 3-pound stuffed animal sounds like fun.

Rambunctious kids could throw heavy toys at playmates, said Celia Kibler, president of Funfit, a family fitness club in Maryland. Kibler also fears children could hurt themselves if they lift too much weight before their bodies are fully developed.

"I think that can be more dangerous than beneficial," she said. "There's so much activity that a child can do that can keep them in shape without the use of weights. That's what they should be concentrating on."

The study's authors stressed that their report is a starting point, and involved only a few children under very controlled circumstances.

Weighted toys in the real world would have to be designed to be safe while holding a child's interest, said Ozmun, acting associate dean of Indiana State's College of Health and Human Performance. . . .

"Having a 3-pound teddy bear may not only help with strength, but with balance and coordination," he said.

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