Study to help kids fight obesity

Marnie McKimmie
Keeping track: A study will keep tabs on children to check their level of physical activity. Picture: The West Austrlian

Young children at child care are being fitted with accelerometers and GPS devices by the Telethon Kids Institute in a bid to find out what makes them get up and move and if they are active enough to prevent obesity and chronic disease.

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By tracking the group of about 100 children, researchers hope to identify through the Pre-Schooler Activity Levels pilot study valuable "subtle effective cues" for movement.

These may be as simple as the type and variety of playground equipment, length of paths, the layout of furniture and the distance to the dress-up box.

The pioneering work, conducted with the University of WA Centre for the Built Environment and Health, and School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, includes testing the suitability of keeping tabs on inside play by using a radio-frequency identification system designed to keep track of patients and expensive medical equipment in hospitals.

"The study is important because we do not know how physically active WA children are at child care and the contribution child care may be making to their overall physical activity levels," researcher Hayley Christian said.

"When children come home they may have only accumulated 30 minutes of physical activity while at child care. It then makes that home time really important for having opportunity for active play and physical activity."

With mothers returning to work earlier, recent statistics showed about 85 per cent of pre- schoolers attended some type of childcare or early learning centre, she said.

In WA, more than 94 per cent were spending at least 10 to 14 hours a week there.

Yet "objectively measured" studies revealed as little as 32 per cent of preschoolers might be meeting the recommended physical activity level of three hours a day.

Ten childcare centres are taking part in the research.

Telethon Kids Institute "Build It and They will Play" public seminar, August 14 at 6pm at HBF Stadium Mt Claremont. Book at or (08) 9489 7777.