Showing posts with label childhood obesity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childhood obesity. Show all posts

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Does Obesity Equate to Poorer Grades?

A recent study revealed some troubling statistics that appear to connect childhood obesity with lower grades and less success in secondary level education. The study also determined that the negative influence of obesity on education is not affected by the student’s social background.

The groundbreaking study from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) focused on obesity statistics in Germany, but it portends even greater concern for US children, since obesity among German children is approximately six percent while, by comparison, more than 10 percent of US children are obese, according to statistics from California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

And the percentage of obese children in the US is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the past 30 years, childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. The CDC estimates that obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States — triple the rate from just one generation ago.

In the 2013 German study, researchers looked closely at how weight and obesity influences grades in mathematics and language in primary school and in Germany's equivalent of of our secondary schools, analyzing both those children who would be classified as overweight and those who would be classified as obese (The CDC defines overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above 85 percent, and obesity as having a BMI at or above 95 percent compared to children of the same age/sex – see CDC Growth Charts for a breakdown by age and gender).  The researchers discovered that:
  • Obese girls and boys are statistically less likely to receive a“ good” or “very good” math grade, with the likelihood of getting top grades as much as 11 percent lower compared to children of healthy weight.
  • Those children classified as overweight do not perform worse in math.
The influence of obesity on math grades did not appear to be effected by whether or not a child is healthy, how much exercise or sports participation they did or didn't get, nor how much TV they watched.

The bully effect

The researchers also found that, because obese girls are bullied more often, they showed lower self-confidence, leading to an increase in behavior problems.
Interestingly though, researchers found no “bully effect” in the study for boys. Although obese boys were found to suffer from lower self-confidence. The researchers believe that this helps to explain the lower math grades.

Self-confidence and obesity

An earlier study in the US on the psychological and social adjustment of obese children and their families showed that obese children are less socially competent, had more behavior problems, and had poorer self-perceptions than their non-obese peers. In effect, the newer WZB study continues where this earlier study left off, connecting these common problems of obese children to negative school performance.

The WZB researchers also concluded that obese children are less likely to take advanced level classes in secondary education than their overweight counterparts.

Parents in the US are already concerned about the health impact when their children struggle with obesity. The German study also highlights the social burden that accompanies the childhood obesity epidemic, not just for the child's current situation but potentially for the long term. 

Parents can investigate two CDC resources for more information about childhood obesity:  the Basics about Childhood Obesity website and CDC's Strategies and Solutions content.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ready, Set, Walk to School!

Wednesday is Walk to School Day – an annual International event, held every October.  But don’t think of Walk to School Day as a one-day blip in your community; since its founding in 1997, this national level event has proven to make positive changes in communities beyond the event day. Local Walk to School Day coordinators from previous years’ events report that this one-day event has engendered remarkable local changes, such as long-term walking and bicycling programs, the development of new sidewalks and pathways to encourage walking, better enforcement of laws against unsafe driving behaviors that could put pedestrians at risk, and the creation of supportive school and community policy changes.

If you or your kids have not participated in the national Walk to School Day event, consider making this week your launch pad. Read on for ideas on how to make Walk to School Day fun for your kids, how to get involved yourself, and how to use Walk to School Day to promote lasting improvement in your family and community.

Two girls walking to school

Why walk to school

In case you or your family members need a little motivation, consider these three compelling reasons to participate in your neighborhood’s Walk to School Day event.
1.  Fat ain’t phat
In the U.S., children struggle with obesity, setting them up for a lifetime of health problems and, according to this new research, even educational deficiencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. 

Walking regularly can counteract this. Walking briskly to and from school a half mile each way can burn between 73 and 150 extra calories daily, depending on your child’s weight (use this chart to estimate).  That’s as much as 29 thousand calories over the course of a school year when walking to school daily! Starting this habit now can help your child to manage weight and increase cardiovascular fitness.
2.  Walking to school is good clean fun.
The fun part: Walking and bicycling bring a sense of joy and independence to your children. When walking, your children get to appreciate things they don’t notice in the car, like the sounds of the neighborhood, seeing friends and neighbors, and feeling connected with their community. 

The good part:  It’s hard in our busy days to carve out focused talk time with our children. Walking to and from school with your child can make for wonderful communication time.

The clean part: Replacing car trips to school with walking or bicycling can reduce congestion and air-polluting emissions.
3.  Participating in National Walk to School Day promotes safety too!
As a result of participation in Walk to School programs, communities have built sidewalks and added traffic calming measures to improve pedestrian safety. Encouraging walking and bicycling to school can help build support for infrastructure improvements in the broader community.

Kids walking to school

Plan your Walk to School Day

Feel free to keep it simple if it helps you get it done; simply encourage your kids to walk on Wednesday this week.  But if you want to make the day more impacting on your family or community, here are some tips to help:
  • Make it a walking block party.  Talk with the other parents on your block and encourage them to make Walk to School Day a group event, which will grow participation, build community rapport, and add an extra measure of supervised fun for the kids.
  • Get local officials active in your walk-to-school event.  Previous neighborhood volunteers report that lasting improvements are more likely to happen, and happen more quickly, when city officials walk or bicycle to school with students.  Doing so let’s them experience firsthand what needs to be done to make safe walking and biking to school a reality. Contact your local officials and invite them to walk with the kids on your block.
  • Employ event-making techniques. The organization behind Walk to School Day has assembled over 50 event ideas that can make your community’s day a big and lasting success.  Check ‘em out here.
  • Build excitement!  Let people know about the big day.  If you’re a teacher, consider making simple handouts for children to take home, or putting up signs and banners in school hallways.  Parents can spread the word on their favorite social media sites too.  Get helpful event resources here.

And then one more day, and then another…

Now that you’ve started a good thing, there’s no reason to stop.  The walk to school event seeks to change community culture, working to build an environment that's more inviting for every walker and bicyclist, young or old. 

Check out these activities and ideas designed to build on the momentum in ways that can make a lasting change in your community.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer