Sep 9, 2016 | By Nick

More than one-third of children don’t get their recommended 60 minutes of vigorous daily exercise. That is contributing to an epidemic of childhood obesity according to the World Health Organization that could put a real strain on their health later in life.

Scientists at the Applied Sports, Technology, Exercise and Medicine (STEM) Research Center at Swansea University believe that 3D printing could provide the solution.

Simple models that illustrate a child’s levels of activity, heart rate and the time they spend running around could drive them towards a healthier, happier future. That’s the theory in any case. Television, video games and the internet are largely to blame for an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, with children spending up to eight hours a week sat in front of the screen.

There is a wealth of information aimed at adults already. Smartphone apps, pedometers and other wearable tech provide a wealth of data to show us how much we have achieved during a workout or the course of the day. But these are complex concepts for young children to grasp.

So the Exertion Games Lab in Melbourne came up with a simple idea, producing 3D prints of a child’s heart rate during physical exercise. Suddenly children could see how the intensity of their exercise affected their heart rate and fitness. It was a small acorn of an idea that could just grow and grow.

The team behind the concept wants to produce different models to highlight children’s weekly activity, or lack of it. That includes the time they wake up and go to bed, the amount of time they spend doing organized physical exercise and the exertion levels.

The child wears a simple physical activity monitor around their waist while they’re going for gold, or goal, and then uploads the data to an app when they’re done. An app interprets that data in a variety of ways and then creates a 3D printed model that the child can relate to.

That can be everything from a heart to an elaborate star with peaks that represent different aspects of their workout.

Images credit: Exertion Games Lab

It gives the child something they can hold in their hand. It’s a simple display and a benchmark they can use to improve upon. A series of models with gradual improvements in their fitness, endurance and the time they spend on sporting activities will also motivate them.

Technology has taken a large portion of the blame for the childhood obesity problem that is threatening to turn into a serious health issue for the world at large. Numerous studies have claimed that 80% of clinically obese children will remain obese throughout their adult life. This can contribute to all manner of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Health authorities around the world have declared war on obesity and they all know that they have to instill good habits into children and promote healthy living from a young age.

So it’s good to see that modern technology can play a part in solving the problem it has helped to create. 3D printing exercise charts is just one way that we can engage and inspire children to get involved with sport.

Pokemon Go, Motion Maze, Zombies, Run! And Ibitz have brought gamification and fun to the world of physical exercise, building on the momentum of Wii Fit and other innovations.

Fit children might not have been the end goal for the likes of Pokemon Go, but the end result is the same. Rewards, bonuses and straightforward points have got the kids interested in the outside world and moving again.

Even so, many children simply don’t grasp the concept of vigorous exercise and there is a world of difference between a gentle walk and intense training. So official guidelines that recommend levels of exercise can be meaningless for a child.

This simple innovation from Swansea University, then, could really be the missing link they need to monitor and improve their fitness levels. If that’s the case then sitting on the computer with a 3D printer could actually be the driving force to get kids fit.

There’s a certain amount of irony in it, but anything that helps fight childhood obesity just has to be a good thing.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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