Posts Tagged ‘childhood obesity’

Junk Food in Schools Doesn’t Cause Weight Gain

Weight gain in middle school students has nothing to do with the junk food they purchase at school, according to a new study.

“We were really surprised by that result and, in fact, we held back from publishing our study for roughly two years because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn’t there,” said Jennifer Van Hook, a Professor of Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University and lead author of the study, which appears in the January issue of Sociology of Education.

The study relies on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, which follows a nationally representative sample of students from the fall of kindergarten through the spring of 8th grade (the 1998-1999 through 2006-2007 schools years).

Van Hook and her coauthor Claire E. Altman, a sociology and demography doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University, used a subsample of 19,450 children who attended school in the same county in both 5th and 8th grades (the 2003-2004 and the 2006-2007 school years).

The authors found that 59.2% of 5th graders and 86.3% of 8th graders in their study attended schools that sold junk food.

But, while there was a significant increase in the percentage of students who attended schools that sold junk food between 5th and 8th grades, there was no rise in the percentage of students who were overweight or obese.

In fact, despite the increased availability of junk food, the percentage of students who were overweight or obese actually decreased from 39.1% to 35.4%.

“There has been a great deal of focus in the media on how schools make a lot of money from the sale of junk food to students, and on how schools have the ability to help reduce childhood obesity,” Van Hook said in a press release.

“In that light, we expected to find a definitive connection between the sale of junk food in middle
schools and weight gain among children between 5th and 8th grades.

But, our study suggests that—when it comes to weight issues—we need to be looking far beyond schools and, more specifically, junk food sales in schools, to make a difference.”

According to Van Hook, policies that aim to reduce childhood obesity and prevent unhealthy weight gain need to concentrate more on the home and family environments as well as the broader environments outside of school.

“Schools only represent a small portion of children’s food environment,” Van Hook said.

“They can get food at home, they can get food in their neighborhoods, and they can go across the street from the school to buy food.

Additionally, kids are actually very busy at school.

When they’re not in class, they have to get from one class to another and they have certain fixed times when they can eat.

So, there really isn’t a lot of opportunity for children to eat while they’re in school, or at least eat endlessly, compared to when they’re at home.

As a result, whether or not junk food is available to them at school may not have much bearing on how much junk food they eat.”

Van Hook believes more emphasis should be placed on younger children developing eating habits and tastes for certain types of foods when they are of preschool age.

“Those habits and tastes may stay with them for their whole lives,” Van Hook said. “So, their middle school environments might not matter a lot.”

Living Testament to Top 10 Fitness Trends

I’m a living testament to the top 10 fitness trends.

For the past 6 years, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, has conducted an annual survey of health and fitness professionals worldwide designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments.

This year the 2,620 respondents chose the following top 10 fitness trends for 2012:

1. Educated and experienced fitness professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, such as those offered by ACSM.

2. Strength training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete physical activity program for all physical activity levels and genders.

3. Fitness programs for older adults. As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active.

4. Exercise and weight loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.

5. Children and obesity. With childhood obesity growing at an alarming rate, health and fitness professionals see the epidemic as an opportunity to create programs tailored to overweight and obese children. Solving the problem of childhood obesity will have an impact on the health care industry today and for years to come.

6. Personal training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that students are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.

7. Core training. Distinct from strength training, core training specifically emphasizes conditioning of the middle-body muscles, including the pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen – all of which provide needed support for the spine.

8. Group personal training. In challenging economic times, many personal trainers are offering group training options. Training two or three people at once makes economic sense for both the trainer and the clients.

9. Zumba and other dance workouts. A workout that requires energy and enthusiasm, Zumba combines Latin rhythms with interval-type exercise and resistance training.

10. Functional fitness. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.

Last Spring, my wife and I bought a series of personal training sessions with certified pros (#1) at both of our kids’ respective school fundraisers.

My plan is ask one of these personal trainers (#6) to set up a general strength training program (#2), in particular working on my upper body strength so I can continue to carry home a case of seltzer from the beverage store a few blocks away (#10).

I’d like to specifically work on core training (#7), which I think will help with turning my waist during the Tai Chi classes I take twice a week at my local Y, mostly with other baby boomers (#3).

I’ve become much more aware of portion sizes recently with my wife on a weight-loss program, and with my doctor’s encouragement, I’m doing aerobics for 30 minutes about twice a week (#4).

One of the issues I follow regularly is childhood obesity (#5) and I blog about it often.

Okay, so I don’t do Zumba classes (“I won’t dance, don’t ask me”) and I’d rather work one-on-one with a personal trainer than in a group.

But the fitness pros pretty much got it all right in their predictions for next year’s top trends.