PE mandates have mixed success in fighting childhood obesity

Aug. 27, 2013, Iowa

By Tom Snee

A study by a University of Iowa economist finds that increased physical education (PE) requirements help reduce obesity among fifth grade boys, but fifth grade girls showed little change.

Childhood obesity has risen dramatically in recent decades, prompting public health officials and policy makers to advocate increased physical activity time for elementary school children. In response, many state legislatures have mandated students take a minimum number of hours of physical education in school to increase their activity and introduce them to better fitness habits.

A study co-authored by David Frisvold, assistant professor of economics in the Tippie College of Business [at the University of Iowa], is one of the first to examine how states’ physical education requirements affect childhood obesity in elementary school. The study uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a survey of thousands of students annually. One item it measures is Body Mass Index (BMI), and Frisvold’s study uses the body mass index (BMI) of students who entered kindergarten in fall 1998. Continue reading

Obesity risk factors may vary for boys, girls

Aug. 12, 2013, U.S. News & World Report

By Kathleen Doheny

While some behaviors increase the risk of obesity for both boys and girls, new research shows there are gender differences.

For instance, although being on a sports team reduced the risk of obesity for middle school-aged boys, it did not for girls, said study author Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan School of Medicine.

On the other hand, “Girls who drank milk seemed to have more protection [against obesity],” she said.

Meanwhile, certain behaviors raised the risk of obesity for both boys and girls, the study found. Eating school lunch regularly increased the risk of obesity by 29 percent for boys and 27 percent for girls. Watching two or more hours of television a day boosted the odds of obesity by 19 percent for both genders. 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