Cutting Down on the Obese Teenage Girl Population

The March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine had an outstanding article about helping decrease the number of overweight teenagers, specifically teenage girls who are at a greater risk for a myriad of health issues including diabetes and heart disease.

A study done by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) named the TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolesent Girls) was published in the March issues under the title “Promoting Physical Activity in Middle School Girls,” and it showed the programs which linked schools in 6 geographic regions of the U.S. with community partners (such as the YMCA or YWCA, local health clubs, and community recreation centers) increased time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among the middle-school female students by about 2 minutes per day, or 80 calories a week.

This is not a huge commitment for the teenage girls and the outcomes were promising health-wise. Physical activity was measured using accelerometers (a device for measuring the acceleration of motion), rather than self-reported to ensure that the results were accurate. The study showed this moderate after activity could prevent excess weight gain of about 2 pounds per year and could prevent the teen from becoming overweight in later teen years or as an adult.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the TAAG showed a reduction of nearly 9 minutes of sedentary behavior in girls in the intervention schools. Furthermore, the best results were seen in programs offered between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, which suggest that after school programs are more effective than programs offered at other times, such as morning weekdays and weekends. Research has shown that adolescents, especially girls, become less active during the teen years and are at a greater risk of obesity.

The study results support the need for schools and community programs to work together to provide opportunities for physical activity programs in after school settings. Even better, if you’re able, get out and get active with your child after school. Stop on the way home from school at a park, take a brisk walk and talk about the events of your days and if you work or are unable to do so, consider signing your daughter up for after school activities – her health will benefit greatly!

If you’d like more information on the NHLBI’s Obesity Education Initiative and the NIH’s We Can! public awareness program to prevent childhood obesity, can discuss resources that encourage increased physical activity, the value of decreased screen time, and better food choices for children and families. Check out their website at We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition), http://wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov .