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.
Categories: Child Health, Education, New Research, Trends | Tags: bicycle, childhood obesity, fitness, high school sports, obesity, physical fitness, teenagers, walking
Monday, April 9th, 2012
Nearly half of three- to five-year-old children do not have daily outdoor playtime with parents or caregivers, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study collected data on 9,000 families, and found that though mothers took children outside more often than fathers, half of the children did not get regular outdoor playtime at all.
CNN.com has more:
“There’s a big room for improvement in how parents prioritize their time and what they’re doing in the time they’re spending with their pre-school children,” said lead study author Dr. Pooja Tandon of Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children play outside as much as possible, for at least 60 minutes a day. Physical activity is not only good for weight control and preventing childhood obesity; previous research also suggests playing outside improves motor development, vision and vitamin D levels.
“There is evidence that play – just sort of the act of playing – is important for children’s development of their social skills and their peer interactions,” Tandon said. “Being outdoors affords children an opportunity to play in ways that they may not get to when they’re indoors.”
Researchers suggested that families address outdoor time with child care centers or preschools their children attend, or work with community groups and friends to devise creative ways to incorporate more outdoor play into kids’ routines.
Image: Empty playground, via Shutterstock.
Monday, February 27th, 2012
Children who are given an “active” video game–one that requires that they move their body to play–are not likely to be more active in general than children who do not play active video games, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found.
The study followed 9- to 12-year-old children who do not have any obesity issues or other health concerns that would prevent them from having normally active lifestyles. Over the course of 13 weeks, researchers tracked the activity of the children, who were given either an active or an inactive video game, to see whether the active games inspired more everyday physical activity.
Though the active games are inherently physical and movement-oriented, the results, the researchers concluded, “provide no reason to believe that simply acquiring an active video game under naturalistic circumstances provides a public health benefit to children.”
Image: Girl playing hand-held video game, via Shutterstock.
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
Parents who urge their child care providers to focus more on learning than on vigorous physical play may be doing their kids a disservice, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Nearly three-quarters of American children between ages 3 and 5 are enrolled in some sort of child care, and the study reports that most of these kids spend most of their days doing sedentary activites.
The Washington Post’s parenting blogger Janice D’Arcy interviewed the study’s lead researcher and reports:
Providers told researchers that they felt pressure from parents to keep children from vigorous play that might lead to injury and also pressure to focus instead on academics.
The third consistent barrier was financial, as some providers said their funds were too limited to purchase up-to-code safe, outdoor equipment. (An ironic twist in this finding is that providers told researchers repeatedly that these “safer” playgrounds were oftentimes the least interesting to children.)
“We were surprised to hear that parents — both low-income and upper-income — were focusing on traditional ‘academics’ (letters, numbers, colors) instead of outdoor play, even for children as young as 3 years old,” lead author Kristen Copeland of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center wrote to me in an e-mail conversation about the report.
“At this age, many children don’t know how to skip, and are still learning how to share, and how to negotiate peer relationships. Yet teachers told us that many parents wanted to know what their child ‘learned’ that day, but were not interested in whether they had gone outside, or had mastered fundamental gross motor skills,” she said.
Interestingly, the study is released at the same time as other research that showed physical fitness to be directly related to improved academic performance, a finding that should
Richard Rende, Parents.com’s child psychology blogger, offered the following advice to parents who want to avoid sedentary habits in their children: “If you want to promote the optimal development and health of your toddler, make sure they have plenty of time for free play and physical activity. Convince yourself that this will be as important – if not more so – than the ‘academics’ they are learning during the preschool years. And do what you can to make sure they get it.”
Image: Preschool girl reading, via Shutterstock.