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: 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

Equipment, encouragement gets kids active during recess

Oct. 24, 2013, The Baltimore Sun

By Allison Bond

Providing children with sports equipment, encouragement, and a safe environment boosts their activity level during the school day, according to a recent study from Australia.

Researchers found that simple steps such as making sure elementary school students have bats and balls to use during recess or asking students to stand up between classes boosted physical activity during recess by as much as 40 percent.

“We all know that physical activity is important, especially with the growing obesity epidemic,” Dr. Vandana Madhavan, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital who was not involved in the research, told Reuters Health. “This study looks at multiple ways to increase activity in the school setting.” Continue reading

Exercise ‘boosts academic performance’ of teenagers

Oct. 22, 2013, BBC News

Intensive exercise improves the academic performance of teenagers, according to new research.

The study of about 5,000 children found links between exercise and exam success in English, math, and science.

It found an increase in performance for every extra 17 minutes boys exercised, and 12 minutes for girls.

The study by the universities of Strathclyde and Dundee in Scotland found physical activity particularly benefited girls’ performance at science.

The authors said this could be a chance finding or reflect gender differences in the impact of physical activity on the brain.

Children who carried out regular exercise, not only did better academically at age 11 but also at age 13 and in their exams at age 16, the study suggested. Continue reading

Study: Screen time contributes to weight gain despite exercise

Oct. 8, 2013, Perth Now

By Susie O’Brien and Katrina Stokes

Even a large amount of exercise does not cancel out “bum time” — periods spent in front of TVs and computers, according to researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The study of 144 active children found those who were normal weight spent an average of 140 minutes less a week on screens than those who were overweight. The two groups did almost exactly the same amount of exercise — more than 90 minutes a day.

Researcher Dr. Rachael Sharman also found children in teams, clubs, or formal exercise lessons were less likely than other kids to “trade off” physical activity for screen time. Continue reading

Children who live in “smart growth” neighborhoods get 46 percent more physical activity

Sept. 10, 2013, News Medical

Children who live in “smart growth” neighborhoods — developments that are designed to increase walkability and have more parks and green space areas — get 46 percent more moderate or vigorous physical activity than kids who live in conventional neighborhoods, finds a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“We were surprised by the size of the effect,” said Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author on the study.

He and his colleagues evaluated activity patterns in children aged 8 to 14 who recently moved to a smart growth community called The Preserve near Chino, CA. The researchers compared them with children living in eight nearby conventional communities, matched for ethnicity and family income. Continue reading

Children’s exercise: Hour a day ‘not enough’

July 30, 2013, Medical News Today

By Nick Valentine

Current recommendations for children to exercise an hour every day are “insufficient” to protect them from heart and blood circulation problems later in life.

Children under age 10 need at least 80 minutes of physical activity a day to keep them healthy, including 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, conclude researchers publishing in the journal BMC Medicine.

This new research into the links between exercise in younger children and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adulthood is part of the European Commission-sponsored project known as IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of Dietary – and lifestyle – induced health Effects in Children and infantS). Continue reading

More exercise beats less TV for growing healthier kids

April 27, 2013, MedPage Today

By Charlene Laino

When it comes to improving kids’ heart health, which is more important? Exercising more or sitting around less?

The answer, according to a study that tested youngsters in a real-world setting, is exercising more.

The researchers studied 536 white children ages 8-10 who had at least one obese biological parent. The goal was to examine the combined associations between time spent in moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity and time spent in sedentary activities in relation to cardiometabolic risk factors. Continue reading

First study shows overweight and obese youth can lose weight from active videogames, or exergames

April 23, 2013, The Wall Street Journal

While most parents have to compete with the videogame console to ensure their kids get enough exercise, new, groundbreaking research published in the scientific journal, Obesity, makes an argument for a certain kind of video game: active videogames, also known as exergames. These games are a form of exercise and rely on technology to track the body’s movement and reaction.

“Faced with a pediatric obesity crisis, our nation urgently needs sustainable physical activities that promote healthy weight in youth,” said study author Amanda Staiano, Ph.D., of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. “In the past, light-to-moderate energy expenditure has been documented during exergame play; however, this is the first study to demonstrate weight loss among teenagers as a result.” Continue reading

Activity level is more important than caloric intake to prevent childhood obesity

March 19, 2013, San Francisco Chronicle

Research recently published in U.S. News and World Report suggests that caloric intake plays a less significant factor in obesity than activity levels.

The authors of the study hypothesize that the thinner children all participate in regular sessions of exercise, thereby increasing their energy expenditures. The overweight and obese subjects were more sedentary.

Originally published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the dietary habits of approximately 13,000 children from the ages of 1 to 17 years between 2001 and 2008. Continue reading