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The Latest Research on Kids’ Health and Fitness

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Periodically, in The Fit Family, I will highlight the latest research that may be relevant to the health and well being of your family. Use the information in this installment to better parent your kids or to be an advocate in their school. Pass it on to other families who may be struggling with obesity. Remember, knowledge is power!

Get Your Zzzzz’s, Kids!
During my work in schools, I often emphasize the three things kids need do to be healthy: exercise, eat well, and get enough rest. Teachers and parents always appreciate the inclusion of that last one. Getting enough sleep takes on even more significance now. A study recently published in Pediatrics shows that kids who were sleep deprived during childhood are at a much higher risk for becoming obese as adults. The researchers compiled the estimated sleep times of 1,037 participants born in the early 1970s by interviewing their parents. They then compared that data to the Body Mass Index (BMI) levels of those participants now that they’re adults. Shorter sleep times were associated with higher adult BMI levels, even after adjusting for other factors such as socioeconomic status and parental weight. It’s been well documented that adults who sleep for only a few hours a night are more likely to be obese. We now know that kids who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for obesity years later.

The Promise of P.E.
A recent issue of The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews presents a summary of 26 different studies on physical activity in school. The reviewers determined that school-based physical activity programs are associated with a significant higher degree of health and wellness among students. The consensus is nothing ground breaking, in fact it’s downright obvious. But I’ve included it here so you can pull it out of your back pocket when your child’s school wants to cut even more P.E. programs.

Taking the Weight Off with…Weight
In my experience as a personal trainer for teens struggling with obesity, I’ve found that many of them prefer the weight room to the cardio equipment in the gym. A 2009 Australian study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that strength training may actually be a more effective weight loss method than aerobic conditioning for obese kids. The participants in the study, overweight or obese children and teens, underwent eight weeks of supervised resistance training. Although the participants may have lost more weight with an aerobic program, the researchers feel a strength training program produces better results in the long run. Here’s why: Overweight kids often avoid aerobic activities because of the stress on their joints due to the excess weight. Many of them also feel self conscious about the way they look when jogging or otherwise moving aerobically. Conversely, the confidence and self-esteem they gain by making strides in the weight room will increase the likelihood that they will continue the program.

School Cafeterias: Still Searching for Grade A

Have you heard the one about ketchup being deemed a vegetable? The dietary regulations for school lunches have come a long way since the ketchup controversy, but many more improvements need to be made. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recently released an analysis of the food served in our nation’s schools. The ADA concluded that schools don’t give students access to enough fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Kids who need subsidized meals at school are still getting food high in saturated fats and sodium. And despite changes made on many campuses, it’s still easy for students to buy candy, salty snacks, and sugary drinks at school. 

Metabolic Syndrome and…Kids?

It’s a sad fact that there are children in America who are living with metabolic syndrome. This is difficult to accept because it’s a largely preventable condition. Metabolic syndrome is defined as a combination of risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease: hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity. A report in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights a study that examined metabolic syndrome in 10 to 15 year olds. The study pinpointed three factors that kids with metabolic syndrome share: lack of cardiovascular fitness, lack of physical activity, and high maternal body mass index. The upside of the study is researchers found that increasing a child’s exercise levels even just slightly can decrease the child’s risk for developing metabolic syndrome. It’s another important reason to get your kids moving!


 


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