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Monday, July 23rd, 2012
It won’t surprise anyone that a new study has found that exercise helps teens–or anyone–maintain a healthy weight. But this study, published in the journal Pediatrics, has found some specific fitness habits can have a more marked effect, including walking or biking to school and participating in high school team sports, more than one if possible. The New York Times reports:
Though the spread of childhood obesity in the last decade has spurred health authorities to ramp up their efforts to promote youth activity, the new findings are among the first to demonstrate that walking or riding a bike to school actually has an impact on weight gain among high school students. The study also found that while school-based exercise can reduce or stem weight gain, it is sports participation in particular that makes a difference. Physical education classes, the researchers found, did not reduce or prevent weight gain, likely because they do not offer students the same level of regular, challenging exercise as competitive sports.
“I think being a part of some kind of team or organization gives kids the opportunity to have moderate to vigorous activity consistently,” said Keith M. Drake, an author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hood Center for Children and Families at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “I think a lot of time physical education requirements are not that strict. Kids are not in P.E. that often, and when they are, the physical activity is not that strenuous.”
Image: High school athletes, via Shutterstock.
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Child Health, Education, New Research, Trends
Friday, March 16th, 2012
Women who are within the normal range of weight and body fat may increase their chances of experiencing infertility if they engage in long-term vigorous exercise like marathon training, while overweight women don’t have that concern–in fact, beginning an exercise regimen may actually increase their chances of becoming pregnant. The Boston Globe’s health blog has more on the study, which was published this week in the journal Fertility and Sterility:
The researchers compared self-reported exercise habits among more than 3,600 Danish women who were attempting to get pregnant and found that women at a healthy weight who reported exercising vigorously — running, fast cycling, swimming, aerobics classes — for five or more hours per week had a 42 percent reduced likelihood of becoming pregnant in any given month compared to those who did light exercise or none at all.
That effect of vigorous exercise, however, wasn’t seen in overweight women who had a body mass index of 25 or more (150 pounds or greater for a 5’5” woman). If anything, vigorous exercise appeared to slightly enhance fertility in these women, reducing the number of months it took to get pregnant, but that effect wasn’t big enough to be statistically significant.
Although the study couldn’t prove that strenuous activity actually delayed conception, the researchers controlled for other factors that could have explained the delay like alcohol and caffeine intake, intercourse frequency, smoking habits, and previous childbirths.
“The take home message is that moderate physical activity appears to enhance fertility among all groups of women,” said study author Lauren Wise, an associate professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health. “Women at a healthy weight who exercise vigorously may want to switch to lighter activity if they’re having trouble getting pregnant.”
Image: Woman jogging, 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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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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Monday, July 11th, 2011
If the obesity epidemic is to be turned around, even babies and kids under age 5 should exercise every day, a new set of guidelines from British health officials have declared. The guidelines recommend that kids who can walk engage in 3 hours of physical activity spread throughout each day, and that non-walking babies experience activities including “tummy time,” swimming sessions with parents, and other active play. From The Associated Press:
In its first such guidelines for children that young, the health department said kids under 5 who can walk should be physically active for at least three hours a day. Officials also said parents should reduce the amount of time such kids spend being sedentary while watching television or being strapped in a stroller.
The three hours of activity should be spread throughout the day. Officials said the children’s daily dose of exercise is likely to be met simply through playing but could also include activities such as walking to school.
For babies who can’t walk yet, the government said physical activity should be encouraged from birth, including infants playing on their stomachs or having swimming sessions with their parents. The government said children’s individual physical and mental abilities should be considered when interpreting the advice.
“It’s vital that parents introduce children to fun and physically active pastimes to help prevent them becoming obese children, who are likely to become obese adults at risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers,” Maura Gillespie, head of policy and advocacy at the British Heart Foundation, said in a statement.
An estimated one-quarter of British adults are obese, the article said, as compared to around one-third of Americans. American health officials including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least an hour of activity for children and teenagers, and 15 minutes of active time for every hour babies spend in child care.
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