The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found greater levels of physical activity at child-care centers that provided for play with portable play equipment like balls, hula hoops, jump ropes and riding toys.
"The easiest way of increasing physical activity may be as simple as providing more active play time and providing relatively inexpensive toys, like balls and jump ropes," study author Dianne Ward of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health at Chapel Hill said in a statement. "Childhood obesity is an epidemic that threatens the future health of our nation. We know that about 57 percent of all 3- to 5-year-olds in the United States attend child-care centers, so it's important to understand what factors will encourage them to be more active, and, hopefully, less likely to become obese."
The study looked at 20 child-care centers across North Carolina and found fewer minutes of sedentary activity when their center had more of the portable play equipment. Stationary equipment like climbing structures and swings were associated with lower intensity physical activity.