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Tackling childhood obesity using structured play times

Medical X-Press – Todd Devlin

“How important is physical activity in children under 5? It’s a question Trish Tucker, a professor in the School of Occupational Therapy, tackles on a daily basis. She’s currently involved in a major research project that aims to get young children moving – early and often. The childhood obesity rate in Canada has increased significantly over the last several years. But it’s more than a recent trend. According to the federal government, obesity rates among children and youth have nearly tripled over the last 30 years. The negative impacts – on the individual and on the health-care system – can be significant. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, and they’re at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular illnesses. One of the major factors cited is a lack of physical activity. Government of Canada statistics show only 9 per cent of children and youth, aged 5 to 17, get the recommended 60 minutes a day of moderate to intense physical activity. It’s clear addressing the issue early is key.”(more)

Preschoolers with autism show gains after play-based program

Medical X-Press – Sarah C.p. Williams

“Treatments for autism spectrum disorder that appear promising in a research lab often don’t work as well in real-life settings. But one intervention, developed over the past 15 years by UCLA scientists, has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of autism in preschool-age children, even when it’s carried out in facilities with less substantial resources and by mostly young teaching assistants. “Children who received the intervention were more engaged with their teacher, used more communication gestures and words than did children who were not in the intervention,” said Connie Kasari, the paper’s senior author and a UCLA professor of education and psychiatry. The study was published online in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.”(more)

Play, cognitive skills in kindergarten predict extracurricular activities in middle school

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“Cognitive skills and experiences like classroom-based play in kindergarten lead to participation in extracurricular activities in 8th grade among children growing up in poverty, finds a new study led by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The findings, published in Applied Developmental Science, look at extracurricular activities as precursors to civic engagement, the building blocks for a healthy democracy. “This study provides first-time empirical evidence that young children’s experiences and skills in kindergarten may shape their engagement in society later in life,” said study author Jennifer Astuto, research assistant professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt and director of playLabNYU, which studies the role of play in children’s lives.”(more)

Health Experts Release New Guidances for Improving Recess in U.S. Schools

Education World – Nicole Gorman

“Health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) have partnered to release a series of guidances intended to help both elementary and secondary school leaders improve recess for the benefit of U.S. students. The first guidance, Strategies for Recess in Schools, provides 19 evidence-based recommendations designed for leaders interested in “making leadership decisions, communicating behavioral and safety expectations, creating a supportive environment, engaging the school community and gathering information,” said the American Academy of Pediatrics.”(more)

Exercise: an antidote for behavioral issues in students?

Medical X-Press – Amy Norton

“Children with serious behavioral disorders might fare better at school if they get some exercise during the day, a new study suggests. The researchers focused on children and teenagers with conditions that included autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression. They looked at whether structured exercise during the school day—in the form of stationary “cybercycles”—could help ease students’ behavioral issues in the classroom. Over a period of seven weeks, the study found it did. Kids were about one-third to 50 percent less likely to act out in class, compared to a seven-week period when they took standard gym classes.”(more)

Boys Who Sit Still Have a Harder Time Learning to Read

Time – Belinda Luscomb

“Anybody who has watched little boys for even five seconds knows that they are exhausting. At school, they tear around the playground, bolt through corridors and ricochet off classroom walls. According to a new Finnish study, this is all helping them to be better at reading. The study, released Nov. 30 in the Journal of Medicine and Sport, found that the more time kids in Grade 1 spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. In first grade, a lot of sedentary time and no running around also had a negative impact on their ability to do math.”(more)