Encouraging trend seen in adolescents' obesity-related behaviors

December 1, 2013

Efforts to increase the time adolescents spend in physical activity and reduce the time they spend watching television seem to be paying off, according to analysis of data from 3 quadrennial surveys of students in grades 6 to 10.

 

Efforts to increase the time adolescents spend in physical activity and reduce the time they spend watching television seem to be paying off, according to analysis of data from 3 quadrennial surveys of students in grades 6 to 10. Using results of Health Behavior in School-aged Children surveys, investigators collected self-reported information on time spent in physical activity, watching television, playing video games, computer use, dietary intake, and weight status during 2001 to 2002 (14,818 students), 2005 to 2006 (9,227 students), and 2009 to 2010 (10,993 students).

Investigators identified significant increases overall in the number of days in which teenagers engaged in at least 60 minutes of physical activity and consumed fruits and vegetables. They also identified decreases in television viewing and consumption of sweets and sweetened beverages over the time period. Yet the average body mass index (BMI) percentile of the adolescents increased over time, particularly from 2001 to 2002 and from 2005 to 2006. The same patterns were observed in all racial and ethnic groups.

Overall, compared with younger adolescents, older teenagers engaged in more obesity-related behaviors, which included less physical activity; more computer use; eating fruits, vegetables, and weekday breakfasts less often; and consuming sweets and sweetened soft drinks more frequently. So investigators were not surprised to find that BMI percentiles were higher in older than in younger teenagers (Iannotti RJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2013;132[4]:606-614).

COMMENTARY  This report provides some good news! We still have a long way to go, but the huge cruise ship of the obesity epidemic might be beginning to turn. Perhaps the efforts of pediatricians, public health officials, nutritionists, educators, and parents are paying off. Take a minute to pat yourself on the back, and then get back to your continued efforts to change this threat to our patients’ health. -Michael Burke, MD

MS FREEDMAN is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. DR BURKE, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. He is a contributing editor for Contemporary Pediatrics. The author and editor have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.