Chubby cheeks and dimple chin are loved in babies and in course of time when the chubby baby grows up, what do we expect of from him/her-to become fit from within? That’s not fair! Fitness, exercise and healthy lifestyle are not habits that are introduced at a specific age in life but must be incorporated into the lives of children right from an early age and there is no base age limit for this! Some think that it’s a curse for the present generation to grow in a restricted lifestyle right from a tender age but alas this is the generation that feasts on juicy burgers and delicious pizzas too thereby jeopardizing their health and making childhood and adolescent obesity a major epidemic. In 1997, the World Health organization declared obesity as a global epidemic and almost more than 10% of the children aged between 5 and 18 years are obese/overweight globally. There has almost been a 50% increase in obesity rates in boys and girls between 1980 and 2013. Fitting into modern clothing and dressing up might be a concern due to weight issues among adolescents but there’s more trouble for the mind and body from a health perspective. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, hypertension, sleep apnea, poor self-esteem, isolation and a lower overall quality of life (health-wise) are common in obese/overweight children. Statistics are clear and the measures that need to be implemented are also crisp but the major point here is how do we implement the measures and what do we do to overcome the epidemic.
Think, Let the Ideologies Sink
Almost 80% of obese adolescents continue to grow into obese individuals in their adulthood. Adolescence is a period of rapid growth where numerous hormonal changes occur in every individual’s body. This is also the period for the development of obesity and curbing this hazard by bringing in appropriate interventions lays a concrete platform for a lifetime of healthy lifestyle practices that favors the individual for a lifetime of good health. Physical activity is said to be a feasible intervention as children play outdoors (assumingly!) and bringing in changes to their game plan to increase exercise duration is way better than restricting their food portions, limiting a huge list of foods and preventing them from eating out. Healthy eating practices are essential but they alone are not sufficient for radical changes in health.
Fitness tests shock us with the result that children today weigh more and have more body fat compared to their counterparts 30 years ago. Motivating your child to start exercising has the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and also improve heart health. While it is generally assumed that kids are active naturally and don’t need an external push/factor to keep them active many children today are used to a sedentary lifestyle due to the society- smartphones and television shows lure these kids away from playing in the ground to being locked up inside a room all day. Outside factors such as living in a nuclear family where both parents work and the child is left in a daycare, absence of someone to help the child play out, living in an apartment and unsafe neighborhoods support sedentary lifestyle, promote obesity rates and also are risk factors for asthma, diabetes and hypertension.
Worldwide Studies on After-school Exercise Effects on Adolescent Children
In USA, 1 in 5 children aged around 15 years has a 1 in 5 chance of having clinical symptoms of coronary heart disease. China too has witnessed a steady rise in obesity rates in the past couple of decades. A Chinese research studied the effects of after-school physical activity with/without diet restrictions on obesity, fitness rates and metabolic profiles in obese/overweight Chinese adolescents.
93 overweight adolescents aged around 13-15 years and whose BMI was between 22-35 were considered for the study. Each of these participants were randomly assigned into one of the four groups-diet, exercise, diet & exercise and overweight control. Diets were planned as per the individual’s body weight and age, one hour of exercise session happened four times a week after school hours and this schedule continued for 10 weeks. All the groups except for the overweight control group witnessed a significant decrease in BMI rates, body fat percentage and waist circumference. So, performing exercise at least thrice a week had a positive impact on central adiposity and overall weight ranges on these Chinese adolescents.
Indian Study on Adolescent Obese Boys
Until now there are not many intervention studies in India for managing obesity problems and most of them come from the West and these studies are based on school-based approaches as more than 90% of the adolescent children attend school making it one of the finest way to attain your goals. A study in India on adolescent boys (studying in class 5-10) aged between 9 and 15 years was conducted. Measurements such as height, weight, body fat, waist circumference, skin fold measures and blood pressure were noted down.
The after-school exercise session happened five days a week for 10 months and every session was for a period of 60 minutes. The session was clearly planned in this manner: session commences with warm-up and stretching activities, then comes cardio and strength training and finally, a period of cooling down activities. Sometimes, sports were also a part of the exercise sessions as it helped the individual perform moderate-intensity activity during the period. After the study period (148 sessions) the study measures were calculated and the data compared.
Recommendations are for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least thrice a week (accounts for 450 min of activity every month) and the participants were divided into three groups based on exercise interventions. This study enforces a 50 min session and when the participant attends 9 sessions (90 sessions in 10 months) the stipulated 450 min of activity time is reached. Any person who attended less than 90 sessions was categorized into low participation group, those who attended 120 of the 148 sessions were categorized into high participation group and those attended between 91 and 119 sessions belonged to the moderate participation group. Of the 205 participants involved in the study, 24% had low participation, 33% had moderate participation and 43% had high participation. Results showed that:
Making PE compulsory in schools is a great initiate but that’s alone not sufficient to curb the obesity epidemic. A 2-year study showed that children who had increased physical education and modified PE classes experienced greater physical activity during school hours but these kids showed poor after-school activity routines and there was also no improvement in fitness or body fat percentage in them. Many other researches also show that involving in 30-60 minutes of physical activity outside school hours leads to overall improvement in physical activity levels, especially in kids.
While younger children are motivated to involve in free play, sports such as swimming or football and engage in walking for a moderate distance that’s tolerable, children nearing puberty (12-12 years) can be allowed to take up a sport or even do weight training under adult supervision for a limited period. Adolescents can involve themselves in sports, doing household chores, yoga, running, dancing or even active transportation (such as walking and cycling).
A Randomized Control Trial of Chinese Adolescents: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21362327
Effects of After-school Physical Activity Intervention to Reduce Obesity Among Indian Adolescent Boys: http://www.foodandnutritionjournal.org/volume1number1/effects-of-after-school-physical-activity-intervention-to-reduce-obesity-among-indian-adolescent-boys/
Prevention of Childhood Obesity through Increased Physical Activity: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/117/5/1834.full.pdf
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Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz of First Eat Right clinic, is the Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Bangalore. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Pune. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Hyderabad. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Chennai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Mumbai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Delhi. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Kolkata.