Weighted toys, and other tricks, may help kids burn calories

Doctors and health advocates have warned for years that American children are getting fatter. Now even some kids' teddy bears are packing on the pounds (kilograms).

But these heavy toys aim to combat obesity, not add to it.

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 (1.35-kilogram) 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.

Obesity rates have tripled over the past 40 years for children and adolescents, raising the risk of diabetes and other health problems. Federal health officials say more than a third of American children are overweight; about 17 percent are considered obese.

Squeezing activity into daily routines can be a good way for children to get more exercise and shed unhealthy pounds, said Alicia Moag-Stahlberg, who heads Action for Healthy Kids, an organization that works with schools.

"By adding weights, you're adding some intensity to the action," she said.

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, reports AP.

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