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Non-Competitive Play Leads to More Physical Activity in Children

by Craig Odar | Aug 01, 2011
Research shows high level of enjoyment in either type

INDIANAPOLIS – A study presented today at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine has shown that the structuring of children’s games has a significant effect on energy expenditure.

A research team led by Karla Bruggeman and David Dzewaltowski, Ph.D., measured activity during both elimination- and non-elimination games, using accelerometers, in 29 children in grades four through six. Both normal weight and overweight children participated in the study, but were not separated for analysis.

In non-elimination games, kids accrued more overall physical activity due to not having to spend time on the sidelines as a result of elimination. They also accumulated significantly more moderate and vigorous physical activity than elimination games. Both sets of games were adopted from a children’s program devised by a nonprofit group that uses various pieces of equipment to facilitate non-competitive play; elimination games were modified from non-competitive versions.

Children were surveyed for self-efficacy, enjoyment, and peer victimization following both types of games. Results showed that enjoyment was somewhat higher following elimination games, although enjoyment scores were high in non-elimination games as well. There were no reports of peer victimization in either set of games, but were significant increases in self-efficacy after both sets.

“The games in this study were part of fun and enjoyable day camp,” Bruggeman said. “It is likely that a well organized and positive game experience increases a kid’s confidence regardless of elimination or non-elimination game conditions.”

However, Bruggeman did record less total physical activity in girls compared to boys, findings that align with other studies showing girls tend to be less active than boys. She says physical education teachers and other recreational instructors should carefully plan activities to ensure kids are getting an adequate amount of physical activity.

“This study highlights the importance of quality over quantity in a physical activity session for children,” Bruggeman said. “It is important to promote non-elimination games to increase physical activity participation, but also important to monitor levels of enjoyment to foster a healthy, fun environment in youth.”

ACSM has long been an advocate of children getting adequate amounts of physical activity, and has reported that higher physical activity levels may lead to higher academic achievement.

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.  More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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