Numerous studies report troublesome statistics about Americans' sub-standard fitness levels, budget cuts to physical education and climbing cases of obesity. Each time such news breaks, I panic a little and plan to move more in the interstitial times of day - yoga before work, a walk at lunch or abs with 30 Rock. I also try to think of subtle ways to build physical activity into the routines of my young nieces and nephews.
But my fears about America's growing waistlines tapered when I came across a Booster Shots entry today discussing findings on exercise and obesity. The recent paper, published in the journal Pediatrics, determined that if every high schooler became a two-sport athlete, obesity rates in their demographic would decrease by 26 percent. More easily applied, a 22 percent decrease in obesity would follow if every teen walked or biked to school at least four days a week.
Where are we now? Booster Shots reports:
The researchers from various institutions in New York and New England surveyed 1,718 teenagers and their parents in Vermont and New Hampshire from 2002 to 2009. Twenty-nine percent of the students were overweight to obese, and 13% were obese.
Walking or biking to school, the researchers said, needs more study; they found some association with obesity but not necessarily to being overweight. Only 10.2% of the students they surveyed walked or biked to school more than 3.5 days a week.
Almost three-quarters of the teenagers in the survey played on sports teams, with almost 54% on two or three teams. Nationwide, 60.3% of high school students play sports, and 34.2% are overweight.
At Stanford, researchers including Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH, are exploring ways to curb childhood obesity. In a previous Scope Q&A, Robinson discussed a pediatric weight-control program he devised that motivates children through culturally specific dance classes, team sports and pollution-free transportation.
Previously: Questioning the use of video games to get kids more active, How physical activity influences health and Stanford pediatrician discusses developing effective programs to curtail childhood obesity
Photo by Noize Photography