A new Danish study found that children are naturally more active on some kinds of playgrounds than others. The research could help public health officials understand what motivates children to exercise, and in turn, help them tame the childhood obesity crisis.

The study fitted children with accelerometers and GPS trackers as they played on different playground surfaces, typically during school recess. Researchers were interested to know whether grassy areas, playgrounds or asphalt lots influenced children's activity levels.

Public health is getting worse, not better.

"The researchers found that children were significantly more active when playing on grassy areas and at sites featuring playground equipment. Concrete lots elicited the least energy expenditure, and in all five areas studied, girls spent more time being sedentary than boys." 

For the first time in many decades, children are currently forecasted to live shorter lives than their grandparents. This is due to health-related diseases like heart disease and diabetes brought on by obesity. But if children can be encouraged to exercise earlier in life and more often, there's a chance that good habits can be established.

The playground study is helpful in understanding what attracts children to exercise and Danish researchers are working with local schools to renovate their playgrounds, adding dancing, climbing, skating, and trampoline areas. 

Photo credit: Scientific American