An Oregon State professor is rounding up 100 children for a study to determine the best way to measure energy expenditure during exercise.
Stewart Trost says the $2.1 million study could lead to improved school exercise programs, and reduce the growing number of out-of-shape children.
About one-third of children age two through 19 are overweight, Trost said as he watched his 9-year-old daughter run while wearing a mask and backpack monitors that measured her breathing, as well as a sensor to gauge her movement.
"It's happening in all age groups, and in all genders, and in all races and ethnicities," Trost said.
Trost's five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is testing the accuracy of motion sensors, which can be as small as matchbooks. There are three types of sensors, and two methods of calculating energy expenditure with each one.
"If you're not using an accurate equation, you're not getting an accurate assessment of how many calories you're burning," said doctoral student Paul Loprinzi, 24.
The backpack units are used as a comparison for the motion sensors and their equations. Ten years ago, similar research could only be done with treadmills and bikes in a lab.
So far, about 40 kids are signed up for the program, most of them elementary school students. While on campus, the children will perform a dozen activities, such as resting, writing on paper, playing catch, walking, running and aerobics. Trost said the length of the study will enable the university to see how maturity impacts exercise.
Several factors are responsible for more children being overweight, Trost said, including kids watching more TV and playing video games instead of spending time running around the neighborhood.
Parents feel that it isn't safe for children to be unsupervised outside the home, he added, and many communities in America aren't pedestrian or bike friendly. Time for PE classes and recess also has been reduced or eliminated entirely in some schools. w
OSU researcher to measure energy expended by children