School gardens grow kids’ physical activity levels

March 20, 2014, Cornell Chronicle

By Ted Boscia

To get school children moving, uproot them from classrooms into school gardens, concludes a two-year Cornell study of 12 elementary schools in five New York regions.

By experiment’s end, kids at schools with gardens were moderately physically active at school for 10 more minutes a week than before their schools had gardens. That was an increase of four times what peers experienced at gardenless schools. What’s more, children who gardened at school were substantially less sedentary at home and elsewhere than their counterparts.

With nearly one in three American children overweight or obese, school gardens could be a simple, low-cost way to get kids more active, said environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, associate professor of design and environmental analysis in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

She presented the findings March 11 at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research Conference in San Diego. Continue reading

Study: Fried food can cause some more weight gain, depending on genes

March 18, 2014, USA TODAY

By Kim Painter

A diet full of fried foods isn’t good for anyone, but it may result in more weight gain for people at a high genetic risk of obesity, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal BMJ, is the latest evidence that life isn’t fair when it comes to navigating a world of french fries, soda, and comfy sofas — because some people are genetically predisposed to become fatter than others indulging in the same bad habits.

It’s a “groundbreaking concept” that could lead to more individualized prescriptions for weight control, says lead author Lu Qi, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Continue reading

School health program helps kids get active

Jan. 14, 2014, Reuters

By Genevra Pittman

Investing in a broad school health program could lead to in-school and at-home benefits for students, a new Canadian study hints.

Children increased their daily physical activity on both school days and weekends in the years after schools hired a full-time health facilitator and set healthy living goals, researchers found.

“It shows that if you deliver a school program well, kids not only will be active more during the school hours when they are in the hands of the teachers but they’re also being trained and understand that it’s important to be physically active at other times,” Paul J. Veugelers said. Continue reading

Rich or poor, schools fall short on providing physical activity

Jan. 17, 2014, Medical Xpress

By Milly Dawson

Schools in wealthier areas are more likely to have a physical education (PE) teacher on staff than are schools in poorer areas, but students in both wealthy and less affluent areas are coming up short with regard to physical activity, finds a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“Children receive many important benefits from physical activity, benefits that aren’t limited to health,” said author Jordan Carlson, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego. Carlson said that beyond strengthening children’s bodies, physical activity improves concentration, classroom behavior, and achievement.

The researchers used data on 172 students at 97 elementary schools in San Diego and Seattle. Socioeconomic status (SES) of the schools was classified as low, medium, or high based on the percentages of children receiving free meals. Children in the study wore devices that measured minutes of physical activity during school hours. Continue reading

New infographic explores how changing communities gets people moving

Communities across the nation are doing more to ensure that streets, sidewalks, schools, and parks support walking, biking, and playing. A new infographic from Active Living Research (ALR) highlights several studies that evaluated changes in physical activity after the implementation of built environment and programmatic modifications in different cities. For example, children are more likely to walk or bike to school when there are quality streets and crosswalks, and programs that promote safety; existence of bike lanes is related to higher rates of cycling; and the presence of recreational facilities close to home encourages more physical activity. Continue reading

Gardening counts as moderate- to high-intensity exercise for kids, study finds

Feb. 4, 2014, Huffington Post

Gardening counts as moderate- to high-intensity exercise for kids, according to a small new study.

To gauge the physical intensity of common gardening activities, Korean researchers had 17 children with an average age of 12 in South Korea wear telemetric calorimeters and heart rate monitors as they engaged in 10 gardening-related activities, including watering, digging, sowing seeds, harvesting, and raking.

The children in the HortTechnology study were given five minutes for each task, with a five minute break between each task. They went to the gardens in two visits, and completed five tasks during each visit. Continue reading

Study: Preschoolers require 11 hours to achieve recommended daily physical activity

Jan. 9, 2013, News Medical

Preschool-aged children require the majority of their waking day, approximately 11 hours, to achieve their recommended daily physical activity, a Vanderbilt study published in Obesity found.

Children in the study, ages 3-5, achieved this activity through relatively short bursts of energy expenditure as opposed to the longer and more routine periods of exercise typically exhibited by adults.

Senior author Shari Barkin, M.D., director of the Division of General Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Medicine, notes that several public health organizations offer general guidelines on how much moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a preschooler needs, but there is very little data on how and if this activity is actually attained. Continue reading

How being heavy or lean shapes our view of exercise

Jan. 8, 2014, New York Times [Well Blog]

By Gretchen Reynolds

Overweight women’s brains respond differently to images of exercise than do the brains of leaner women, a sophisticated new neurological study finds, suggesting that our attitudes toward physical activity may be more influenced by our body size than has previously been understood.

For the study, which was published last month in the International Journal of Obesity, scientists affiliated with the Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality at Southwest University in Chongqing, China, recruited 13 healthy, young, normal-weight women and 13 who were overweight or obese.

The scientists asked their volunteers to complete two questionnaires, one of which probed the extent to which they considered exercise desirable; would they agree, for instance, that, “if I were to be healthy and active, it would help me make friends”? The other set of questions examined whether they expected exercise to be unpleasant; if they were to be physically active on most days, for example, would they expect to wind up feeling sore, or maybe even embarrassed by exercising in public? Continue reading

Study: Physical activity does not help burn abdominal fat in teens

Jan. 10, 2014, University Herald

By Stephen Adkins

It is a known fact that eating junk food causes bulging waistlines in adolescents. But a study by the UPV/EHU University of the Basque Country has found that abdominal fat cannot be reduced even if they engage in more physical activity.

Researchers said that the only way to fight obesity is through a combination of diet with lower fat content and lots of exercise.

“Until now it was thought even with an unbalanced diet, you somehow compensated for it if you got plenty of physical exercise,” researcher Dr. Idoia Labayen said in a press release. “Adolescents are a risk group as far as lifestyles are concerned because they are starting to take their own decisions about what they want and do not want to eat, and they are also going through a period in which many of them have stopped doing any sport.” Continue reading

Study: Strength training may boost kids’ activity

Nov. 4, 2013, Reuters

By Genevra Pittman

Whether children can and should participate in strength training has been a contentious issue. But new research suggests it is safe and may encourage young people to be more active in their everyday lives.

Researchers randomly assigned one group of children aged 10 to 14 to strength train twice a week and others to go to their typical gym classes.

After a few months, kids who did squats, crunches and bench presses were stronger than their classmates. And boys who did strength training had upped their weekly exercise by 10 percent.

“The initial idea was that training increases children’s motivation to be physically active,” said Dr. Udo Meinhardt. He led the study at the PEZZ Center for Pediatric Endocrinology in Zurich, Switzerland. Continue reading