A new study conducted by the University of Massachusetts shows that American adolescents are eating more fruits and vegetables and are getting more exercise than they did ten years ago.
For the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, lead author Ronald Ianotti analyzed a cross section of adolescents in grades 6-12 through a health survey given to middle and high school students. The average number of days adolescents exercise an hour or more rose from 4.3 to 4.5 over a ten year period. Additionally, today’s teens are watching less television and are eating fewer sweets.
Despite the healthier trend, obesity rates haven’t decreased, at least not yet. The good news is that although obesity rates haven’t dropped, they have stabilized. Over time, these baby steps in behavioral change could easily stem the obesity tide, if the trend continues.
A 2009 European study conducted in Leipzig, Germany supports this assumption. A group of 188 students were analyzed for one year following the implementation of daily exercise programs in certain schools. The results were positive across the board: systolic blood pressure lowered and endurance capacity significantly increased. But the biggest surprise to the research team was the effect on obesity rates — after 12 months, they dropped from 13% to 9%. This study was the first to show a direct correlation between increased physical activity and a drop in obesity numbers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting television viewing and video game play to 1-2 hours a day, while the Mayo clinic urges parents to take walks and play games outdoors with their children. Given that there are numerous opportunities for children to remain sedentary in our digital, touch-of-a-button world, parental intervention is key, says Mayo.