Friday, October 5th, 2012
Kids who participate in school or community based exercise programs get more movement in their lives during the programs themselves, but are not likely to carry that over into a more active lifestyle, a new review of program outcomes in the US and UK has found. From The New York Times:
To be included in the review, the studies had to have involved children younger than 16, lasted for at least four weeks, and reported objectively measured levels of physical fitness, like wearing motion sensors that tracked how much they moved, not just during the exercise classes but throughout the rest of the day. The studies included an American program in which elementary school-age students were led through a 90-minute session of vigorous running and playing after school, three times a week. Another program involved Scottish preschool youngsters and 30 minutes of moderate physical playtime during school hours, three times a week.
In each case, the investigators had expected that the programs would increase the children’s overall daily physical activity.
That didn’t happen, as the review’s authors found when they carefully parsed outcomes. The American students, for instance, increased their overall daily physical activity by about five minutes per day. But only during the first few weeks of the program; by the end, their overall daily physical activity had returned to about where it had been before the program began. The wee Scottish participants actually became less physically active over all on the days when they had the 30-minute play sessions.
The review authors found similar results for the rest of the studies that they perused. In general, well-designed, well-implemented and obviously very well-meaning physical activity interventions, including ones lasting for up to 90 minutes, added at best about four minutes of additional walking or running to most youngsters’ overall daily physical activity levels.
The programs “just didn’t work,” at least in terms of getting young people to move more, said Brad Metcalf, a research fellow and medical statistician at Peninsula College, who led the review.
Parents might want to consider incorporating more active time into home life, such as these yoga moves designed for families by Parents.com.
Image: Red tricycle, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
A review of 14 scientific studies has found that regular physical exercise has benefits beyond cardiovascular health–it also can help kids perform better in the classroom. The New York Times reports:
…all three of the studies that measured time spent in physical activity found it associated with academic performance, and the two rated highest in methodological quality confirmed a positive relationship between physical activity and school achievement.
The reasons for the connection are unknown, but the researchers suggest that exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and may lead to increased levels of norepinephrine and endorphins, important in stress reduction.
The lead author, Amika S. Singh, a senior researcher at VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said there was no evidence about exactly how much or what kind of exercise is beneficial. But, she added, “I think it’s healthy to look for a good balance between time spent in academic work and in physical activity.”
Image: Girl playing in the snow, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, December 12th, 2011
Few parents of overweight children–fewer than one in four–say that their pediatricians have raised concerns over their kids’ weight, according to a new study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
But researchers are unsure as to whether doctors are truly not raising the issues, or whether the parents are unable or unwilling to process what they’re being told. MSNBC.com reports:
“It’s tricky to say, and it’s tricky to hear,” says lead researcher Dr. Eliana Perrin of the University of North Carolina. She analyzed government health surveys that included nearly 5,000 parents of overweight children from 1999 to 2008.
Parents tend not to realize when a weight problem is creeping up on their children. When almost a third of U.S. children are at least overweight, and about 17 percent are obese, it’s harder to notice that there’s anything unusual about their own families. Plus, children change as they grow older.
The new study suggests when parents do recall a doctor noting the problem, it’s been going on for a while.
About 30 percent of the parents of overweight 12- to 15-year-olds said a doctor had alerted them, compared with just 12 percent of the parents of overweight preschoolers. Even among the parents of very obese children, only 58 percent recalled a doctor discussing it, says the report published Monday by the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
“Many pediatricians don’t worry until children are very overweight, or until they’re much older,” says Perrin, whose team has created stoplight-colored growth charts to help doctors explain when a problem’s brewing. “If we can notice a concerning trend early, we’re more likely to be able to do something about it.”
Image: Overweight boy, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
First lady Michelle Obama, who is using her role to champion the causes of healthy eating and fitness for children, attempted Tuesday to help break the Guinness World Record for the most people to do jumping jacks for one minute.
The Associated Press reported that Obama led hundreds of local children in one minute of jumping jacks on the South Lawn of the White House. The event was reviewed by a Guinness World Records official, and it signaled the beginning of a 24-hour challenge to have more than 20,000 people around the world doing the exercise for one minute. The previous record was set on March 22, 2011, with 20,425 jumpers taking part.
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The Washington Post’s Reliable Source blog was at the White House yesterday:
The first lady bounced out to squeals from the crowd.
“We’re going to show people today is that moving is fun, right?” she exhorted.
Yeah!!! The kids were all ready to jump their little hearts out. . . but the official countdown clock still had four minutes before they could start. [TV personality Al] Roker killed time with a game of “Simon Says” and a joke. (“What did the snail say on top of the turtle? Wheeeeee!”)
Folks, it all went adorably downhill from there: Obama began jumping jacks at the stroke of 3 p.m.; the kids broke ranks and pressed around her, some jumping jacks, some just bouncing up and down and mugging for the cameras. At the end of the minute, the tiny mob rushed the first lady. . . and almost knocked her down.
Secret Service agents swooped in while Roker vainly tried to regain some semblance of order : “Everybody get back in line!” Obama never stopped grinning, one kid ran over to reporters and exclaimed: “She touched my hand!”
Guinness will announce the official result today at 3 pm.
(image via: http://www.washingtonpost.com/)
Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that teenage boys who undergo smoking cessation education combined with physical exercise are almost twice as likely to quit smoking as boys who get education alone.
The study, which was conducted in West Virginia, followed 233 smokers ages 14-19, many of whom had started smoking as young as age 11. Three months into the program, 10 percent of boys who had received a 10-week smoking cessation program had quit. Of the boys who received the 10-week program plus a physical exercise regimen, 24 percent had quit smoking.
The New York Times reports that researchers are puzzled by the study’s failure to replicate the results in girls:
The data did not explain why a gender divide would exist, but Dr. Horn speculated that a few things could be responsible. Teenage boys are generally more enthusiastic about engaging in vigorous exercise, and are “more confident in their ability to be physically active,” [the study's lead author Dr. Kimberly] Horn said, while physical activity levels typically plummet as teenage girls get older.
“It’s puzzling to us; it was a surprise finding,” she said. “I think we also need to look at issues of self-confidence. It could be the girls started with some stronger fitness barriers to overcome than boys.”
(image via: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/)
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