Posts Tagged ‘ physical fitness ’

Moms: Your Fitness Level Will Impact Your Kids’

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Moms who lead active lifestyles and get regular physical exercise tend to have children who are also physically active, according to a new study conducted by British researchers.  Importantly, the study could not definitively conclude that the correlation only went into the mother-to-child direction–it was also possible that more active kids demanded more physical involvement (also known as baby-chasing) from their mothers.  Because of this possibility, the researchers urged both parents and children to be mindful of their activity levels, and increase them to a healthy level whenever possible.

More from NPR on the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics:

[Lead author Esther] van Sluijs says just small changes – walking to the park instead of driving or playing a good game of tag instead of a board game – can make a difference.

“Increasing your physical activity just by a little bit already helps, you don’t have to become an athlete.” she says. “If you look at [small increases in activity] over a month or a year, that can actually have quite large benefits.”

Fathers weren’t part of the study, but van Sluijs says that doesn’t mean the call for more exercise should single out mothers.

“We do recommend that interventions are not just targeted at mothers and their children,” she tells Shots. “They’re actually targeted at the family unit because we know that siblings as well play an important role for children’s physical activity.”

Exercise With Baby: Biceps
Exercise With Baby: Biceps
Exercise With Baby: Biceps

Image: Mother and son doing yoga, via Shutterstock

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Parents Get Failing Grade for Low Level of U.S. Kids’ Fitness

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Frequent Internet use, stressed-out parents who don’t have time to play outside, and too much time spent riding in cars are all cited by a non-profit organization’s Physical Activity for Children and Youth report card as contributing factors to poor physical activity and fitness levels among American kids.  Reuters has more:

Only one quarter of children aged 6 to 15 meet the current guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, said Dr. Russell R. Pate, chairman of the non-profit National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) Alliance, which issued the first U.S. report card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

“Fifty percent of waking hours are spent in sedentary activity,” said Pate, professor in the Department of Exercise Science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

Fitness experts say it is up to parents and policy makers to get their children to be more active.

“It’s not about grading the kids,” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and chairman of the research committee that issued the report card.

“Kids want to be active, if they’re given the opportunity.” he said. “This is for us to change.”

Image: Kids playing outside, via Shutterstock

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Exercise During Pregnancy May Boost Baby’s Brain

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Women who get regular physical exercise during pregnancy may be doing their babies a favor by boosting their brain activity as well as their cardiovascular development.  More on a new study by Canadian researchers from The New York Times:

It has long been suspected that a mother-to-be’s activity — or lack of it — affects her unborn offspring, which is not surprising, given how their physiologies intertwine. Past studies have shown, for example, that a baby’s heart rate typically rises in unison with his or her exercising mother’s, as if the child were also working out. As a result, scientists believe, babies born to active mothers tend to have more robust cardiovascular systems from an early age than babies born to mothers who are more sedentary.

Whether gestational exercise similarly shapes an unborn child’s developing brain has been harder to quantify, although recent studies have been suggestive. An experiment presented this month at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in San Diego, for instance, reported that pregnant rats allowed to run on wheels throughout their pregnancies birthed pups that performed more dexterously in early childhood on a tricky memory test — having to identify unfamiliar objects in a familiar environment — than pups born to sedentary moms. These clever rats retained their cognitive advantage into adulthood (meaning, for rats, weeks later).

But this and similar experiments have involved animals, rather than people. Many of these studies also began comparing the creatures’ cognitive abilities when they were old enough to move about and respond to their world, by which time they potentially might have been shaped as much by their environment as by their time in the womb.

So to minimize these concerns, researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada recently recruited a group of local women who were in their first trimester of pregnancy. At that point, the women were almost identical in terms of lifestyle. All were healthy, young adults. None were athletes. Few had exercised regularly in the past, and none had exercised more than a day or two per week in the past year.

Then the women were randomized either to begin an exercise program, commencing in their second trimester, or to remain sedentary. The women in the exercise group were asked to work out for at least 20 minutes, three times a week, at a moderate intensity, equivalent to about a six or so on a scale of exertion from one to 10. Most of the women walked or jogged.

Every month, for the remainder of each woman’s pregnancy, she would visit the university’s exercise lab, so researchers could monitor her fitness. All of the volunteers, including those in the nonexercise group, also maintained daily activity logs.

After about six months and following the dictates of nature, the women gave birth. All, thankfully, had healthy boys or girls — which the scientists gently requested that the mothers almost immediately bring in for testing.

Within 12 days of birth, in fact, each of the newborns accompanied his or her mother to the lab. There, each baby was fitted with an adorable little cap containing electrodes that monitor electrical activity in the brain, settled in his or her mother’s lap, and soothed to sleep. Researchers then started a sound loop featuring a variety of low, soft sounds that recurred frequently, interspersed occasionally with more jarring, unfamiliar noises, while the baby’s brain activity was recorded.

“We know that baby’s brains respond to these kinds of sounds with a spike” in certain types of brain activity, said Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montreal, who led the study and also presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. This spike is most pronounced in immature brains, she continued, and diminishes as a newborn’s brain develops and begins processing information more efficiently. “It usually disappears altogether by the time a baby is 4 months old,” she said,

In this case, the relevant brainwave activity soared in response to the novel sounds among the children born to mothers who had remained sedentary during pregnancy. But it was noticeably blunted in the babies whose mothers had exercised. In essence, “their brains were more mature,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said.

Pregnancy Workouts: Easy Beginner Exercises
Pregnancy Workouts: Easy Beginner Exercises
Pregnancy Workouts: Easy Beginner Exercises

 

Image: Fit pregnant woman, via Shutterstock

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Kids Less Fit Than Their Parents Were, Study Finds

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

An international analysis of children’s fitness has revealed that today’s kids can’t run as far or as fast as their parents could at their age.  More from The Associated Press:

On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.

The American Heart Association, whose conference featured the research on Tuesday, says it’s the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades.

‘‘It makes sense. We have kids that are less active than before,’’ said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and spokesman for the heart association.

Health experts recommend that children 6 and older get 60 minutes of moderately vigorous activity accumulated over a day. Only one-third of American kids do now.

‘‘Kids aren’t getting enough opportunities to build up that activity over the course of the day,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘Many schools, for economic reasons, don’t have any physical education at all. Some rely on recess’’ to provide exercise.

Sam Kass, a White House chef and head of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, stressed the role of schools in a speech to the conference on Monday.

‘‘We are currently facing the most sedentary generation of children in our history,’’ Kass said.

The new study was led by Grant Tomkinson, an exercise physiologist at the University of South Australia. Researchers analyzed 50 studies on running fitness — a key measure of cardiovascular health and endurance — involving 25 million children ages 9 to 17 in 28 countries from 1964 to 2010.

Image: Running feet, via Shutterstock

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Physical Fitness, School Success Linked in Study

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Children who exercise regularly and who are in good physical condition are better able to absorb and retain information in school, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  More from The New York Times:

[Researchers recruited] a group of local 9- and 10-year-old boys and girls, testing their aerobic fitness on a treadmill, and then asking 24 of the most fit and 24 of the least fit to come into the exercise physiology lab and work on some difficult memorization tasks.

Learning is, of course, a complex process, involving not only the taking in and storing of new information in the form of memories, a process known as encoding, but also recalling that information later. Information that cannot be recalled has not really been learned.

Earlier studies of children’s learning styles have shown that most learn more readily if they are tested on material while they are in the process of learning it. In effect, if they are quizzed while memorizing, they remember more easily. Straight memorization, without intermittent reinforcement during the process, is tougher, although it is also how most children study.

In this case, the researchers opted to use both approaches to learning, by providing their young volunteers with iPads onto which several maps of imaginary lands had been loaded. The maps were demarcated into regions, each with a four-letter name. During one learning session, the children were shown these names in place for six seconds. The names then appeared on the map in their correct position six additional times while children stared at and tried to memorize them.

In a separate learning session, region names appeared on a different map in their proper location, then moved to the margins of the map. The children were asked to tap on a name and match it with the correct region, providing in-session testing as they memorized.

A day later, all of the children returned to the lab and were asked to correctly label the various maps’ regions.

The results, published last week in PLoS One, show that, over all, the children performed similarly when they were asked to recall names for the map when their memorization was reinforced by testing.

But when the recall involved the more difficult type of learning — memorizing without intermittent testing — the children who were in better aerobic condition significantly outperformed the less-fit group, remembering about 40 percent of the regions’ names accurately, compared with barely 25 percent accuracy for the out-of-shape kids.

This finding suggests that “higher levels of fitness have their greatest impact in the most challenging situations” that children face intellectually, the study’s authors write. The more difficult something is to learn, the more physical fitness may aid children in learning it.

Image: Kids playing at recess, via Shutterstock

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