New report provides important data on health-related practices in secondary schools

Bridging the Gap has released a comprehensive report examining U.S. secondary school policies and practices related to nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention.

The report, entitled School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity: National Secondary School Results, Volume 6, focuses on students in grades 8, 10, and 12 and includes data from nationally representative samples of public middle and high schools. It provides new information from the 2013-14 school year on school meals, competitive foods and beverages, drinking water in schools, physical activity (including physical education, sports participation, and walking and biking to school), progress made in fulfilling the federal wellness policy mandate, and much more. It also includes annual trends from the 2006-07 school year forward.

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Advancing research on youth energy expenditure: Call for article submissions

For approximately 25 years, researchers have used the adult Compendium of Physical Activities as a standardized system to code the energy expenditure, or Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) intensity, of adult physical activities. Until recently, those interested in studying youth often relied on the adult Compendium and adult MET values as a proxy for youth values. However, the resting metabolic rate and activity energy expenditure are different in youth than in adults and can vary significantly across ages as youth mature physically and improve motor skills. Therefore, an updated, comprehensive youth Compendium is needed to expand on this previous work.

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Physical Activity Design Guidelines for School Architecture: New tool for built environment researchers and designers

According to a 2012 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, up to 50 percent of a child’s waking hours are spent in school. Furthermore, much of this time is spent sedentary. In efforts to decrease childhood obesity, research has increasingly focused on physical activity in the school environment. As this body of evidence continues to grow, however, a knowledge gap has formed between research and school design practice.

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NCCOR, JPB Foundation form alliance to support Measures Registry

Through a two-year grant from The JPB Foundation, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) will strengthen its landmark Measures Registry by creating user guides for researchers. With more than 1,000 measures in the Measures Registry, the new guides will help users choose measures best suited for their research and evaluation work.

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More physical activity improved school performance

Oct. 14, 2014, Medical Xpress

Just two hours of extra physical activity each week can improve school performance. This has been shown by a study of approximately 2,000 12-year-olds carried out by scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg [in Sweden].

Researchers Lina Bunketorp Käll, Michael Nilsson, and Thomas Linden at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, tested the hypothesis that increased physical activity stimulates learning and improves school performance. Continue reading

After-school exercise yields brain gains

Sept. 29, 2014, HealthDay

By Tara Haelle

Regular daily exercise appears to improve children’s attention and multitasking skills, according to a new study.

Elementary school-age students who participated in an after-school program with plenty of physical activity showed greater improvements in several areas of so-called “executive function” than similar students who did not participate.

Executive function refers to a range of mental or “cognitive” skills that include memory, focus, attention, and the ability to switch back and forth between tasks.

Lead researcher Charles Hillman said that students who had the highest attendance in the program saw the biggest gains in mental skills. Continue reading

Don’t forget: Register for Sept. 10 webinar on U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity

At a congressional briefing in April, the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP), in collaboration with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), released the groundbreaking 2014 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. NPAP focuses on tactics and strategies for addressing physical activity. The report card is the first in a historic series of report cards that will provide an unprecedented benchmark using a common methodology on this critical public health issue.

A free hour-long webinar about the implications of the Physical Activity Report Card will be held on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m., ET. The webinar will include a question and answer session with Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., chair of the U.S. Report Card Research Advisory Committee and associate executive director at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University and Russell Pate, Ph.D., chairman of the NPAP Alliance and professor at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Continue reading

The cheap, colorful way cities are trying to fight childhood obesity

July 31, 2014, City Lab

By Aarian Marshall

The United States has a well-known childhood obesity problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one third of the nation’s children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. The percentage of obese children ages 6 to 11 more than doubled over the past three decades, from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2012.

But some cities, designers, and child health advocates think they have a solution—at least a small part of a solution. And the best news for cash-strapped schools and governments is that the solution is cheap.

In the language of playground design, “ground markings” are shapes, pictures, or games drawn onto the surfaces of play areas. These include readymade hopscotch squares, giant maps, and big circles to leap between. Continue reading

The one good thing about teens and sports drinks

May 6, 2014, TIME

By Alice Park

Researchers confirm a strong connection between sports and energy drinks and smoking, video game playing, and sugary soda consumption. But the beverages were also linked to more physical activity among teens.

Considering what we know about kids and sports drinks — briefly, that according to leading health groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children should not be drinking them — the small silver lining, according to a recent study, is that kids who drink them tend to exercise more than those who don’t. But they were also more likely to do things that harm their health, too.

Nicole Larson and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health asked nearly 3,000 students in grades six through 12 an exhaustive series of 235 questions and concluded that nearly 40 percent drank a sports drink at least once a week. Both boys and girls consuming sports drinks regularly were more likely to smoke and to play video games, the researchers found. They were also more likely to drink sugary soda and juice. The fact that sports and energy drink consumption are correlated with other risky behaviors, such as smoking, isn’t a surprise (though, to be clear, the researchers do not suggest a cause-effect relationship between the two). Continue reading

Motivating kids to be more physically active

March 5, 2014, News Medical

Parents can help motivate kids to be more physically active, but the influence may not result in an improvement in their children’s body mass index (BMI), finds a new evidence review in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“It was disappointing to find the overall impact of interventions on physical activity was so minimal. It was encouraging, though, to find parents’ influence matters in this area, even with older children and teens,” said the review’s lead author Jane Cerruti Dellert, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor and director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at the Seton Hall University College of Nursing in New Jersey.

Health promotion advocates attempting to reduce obesity in American children need to address the role of parents in their children’s health-related behaviors, she added. Continue reading