Exercise, diet habits improving among youth, study shows



Using
surveys conducted in middle and high schools, researchers also found increases
in the number of days youth reported having
breakfast each week and in how
often they ate fruits and vegetables.

Those trends have corresponded to a
leveling off in obesity rates, but not a decline, the study showed.

“I
would like to believe that all the public health efforts focusing on increasing
physical activity and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are having an
effect, because that seems to be a pattern,” Ronald Iannotti, the lead
author on the study from the University of Massachusetts Boston, said.

“The
fact that (obesity) is leveling off, that’s a surprise and a major change from
the steady increase that we’ve seen over time,” Iannotti, who worked on
the study while at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, said. “This is great
news.”

He and
co-author Jing Wang analyzed surveys given to a nationally-representative sample
of students in sixth through tenth grades in 2001-2002, 2005-2006 and 2009-2010
as part of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children study. Each survey
period included responses from between 9,000 and 15,000 adolescents.

The
researchers found “encouraging” trends on measures of most diet and
lifestyle habits.

For example,
the number of days each week that kids reported being physically active for at
least 60 minutes increased from 4.3 in 2001-2002 to 4.5 in 2009-2010, with
similar trends among boys and girls. Likewise, youth reported eating breakfast
on three school days each week on the first survey and 3.3 days on the last.

The average
number of hours students spent watching TV each day fell from 3.1 to 2.4, with
drops in both weekday and weekend viewing.

Frequency of
fruit and vegetable consumption also rose slightly over time – although it
remained at less than one daily serving of each, on average – and consumption
of sweets and soft drinks fell.

However, the
proportion of survey participants who were overweight or obese, based on their
own height and weight reports, did not decrease, the researchers wrote Monday
in Pediatrics.

Rates of
obesity – defined as body mass index, a measure of weight in relation to
height, in the 95th percentile or higher – rose from 10.3 percent in 2001-2002
to 12.7 percent in 2005-2006, then held steady through the final survey.

“This
is encouraging, because at least it looks like things have kind of stabilized,
and at least they’re not going in the wrong direction,” Marian Huhman, who
studies health communication and health campaigns at the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, said.

“Maybe
it just takes a few years for the outcomes of obesity changes to follow from
the behavioral changes,” she added.

Huhman, who
wasn’t involved in the study, pointed to the “effort on many, many
fronts” that may have led to the positive changes in physical activity,
sedentary behavior and diet – such as walk-to-school programs and campaigns
targeting food marketing.

However,
adolescents “are still largely not meeting the recommendations for amount
of screen time, amount of physical activity (and) amount of fruit and vegetable
consumption,” she said.

Iannotti
echoed that concern.

“Although
they’re increasing, the recommendation is five servings of fruits and
vegetables per day. And we’re looking at one or two,” he said.

“There’s
still vast room for improvement.”


Read more: Foxnews
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