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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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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