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Research finds health benefits from free play

03 March 2014 RMIT University

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 play.

"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 school 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 children healthy."

 

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