Moving America Forward

The Surprising Secret to Get Adults Moving

March 11, 2014
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The Surprising Secret to Get Adults Moving
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A new study finds that a simple change in playground design can increase our level of activity.

Going down the slides, swinging on the tire swing, and twirling around on the merry-go-round is just child’s play, right? Turns out that frolicking on the playground isn’t just good for kids, but adults, too. But how do you entice grown-ups to be more active?

In a small study, researchers from the USDA found an interesting way to get adults to move: By getting rid playground benches. That’s because it eliminated the temptation to sit, Reuters reports. The study, which was published in Preventive Magazine, was set up by USDA supervisory physiologist James Roemmich who wondered what parents would do after the eight picnic tables at a Grand Forks, North Dakota playground were temporarily removed. According to the report, researchers found that in the single week after the benches were taken away, parents were 23 times more likely to engage in moderate to vigorous activity, such as pushing children on swings, socializing with other parents, and throwing Frisbees and footballs.

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Fortunately, the on-the-go adults did not deter the kids from acting like, well, kids. The study also discovered that removing the benches did not affect how long children stayed at the playground — nor did it stop them from playing like they normally did. “That’s because children are already very active when they’re at the playground, running from swings to slides, climbing and jumping,” Roemmich said. “Increasing their activity level is more challenging.”

While it’s unlikely that your local park will rip up all the playground benches after this study, it certainly does suggest that simple steps like this could help reduce the obesity epidemic that’s afflicting this country.

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