- HHS and USDA release new dietary guidelines to encourage healthy eating patterns to prevent chronic diseases
PUBLICATIONS & TOOLS
- Recording of the Dec. 9 Connect & Explore Webinar now available!
- New report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers provides important insights on SNAP benefits
- CDC releases School Health Profiles 2014
CHILDHOOD OBESITY RESEARCH & NEWS
- Why are poorer children more likely to be obese?
- Kids who are better at tasting sugar are more likely to be overweight, study finds
- Fresh-made meals a learning experience at schools
- More exercise at school may be key to improving teens’ health
HHS and USDA release new dietary guidelines to encourage healthy eating patterns to prevent chronic diseases
Jan. 7, 2016, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today released updated nutritional guidelines that encourage Americans to adopt a series of science-based recommendations to improve how they eat to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the nation’s trusted resource for evidence-based nutrition recommendations and serves to provide the general public, as well as policy makers and health professionals with the information they need to help the public make informed choices about their diets at home, school, work, and in their communities.
“Protecting the health of the American public includes empowering them with the tools they need to make healthy choices in their daily lives,” said Secretary Burwell. “By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable. The Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition so people can make decisions that may help keep their weight under control, and prevent chronic conditions, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.”
The newly released 8th edition of the Dietary Guidelines reflects advancements in scientific understanding about healthy eating choices and health outcomes over a lifetime. This edition recognizes the importance of focusing not on individual nutrients or foods in isolation, but on the variety of what people eat and drink—healthy eating patterns as a whole—to bring about lasting improvements in individual and population health.
“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is one of many important tools that help to support a healthier next generation of Americans,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines provides individuals with the flexibility to make healthy food choices that are right for them and their families and take advantage of the diversity of products available, thanks to America’s farmers and ranchers.”
The specific recommendations fit into five overarching guidelines in the new edition:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time
- Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
- Support healthy eating patterns for all
Healthy eating patterns include a variety of nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods and oils, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. A healthy eating pattern is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture, and budget.
Importantly, the guidelines suggest Americans should consume:
- A variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
- Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados
Further, Americans should be encouraged to consume:
- Less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. ChooseMyPlate.gov provides more information about added sugars, which are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits
- Less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. The Nutrition Facts label can be used to check for saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil
- Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium for people over the age of 14 years and less for those younger. The Nutrition Facts label is a helpful tool to check for sodium, especially in processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces, and soups
Based on a review of current scientific evidence on nutrition, the 2015 edition includes updated guidance on topics such as added sugars, sodium, and cholesterol and new information on caffeine. For example, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is the first edition to recommend a quantitative limit to consume less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars. This edition also reaffirms guidance about the core building blocks of a healthy lifestyle that have remained consistent over the past several editions, and suggests there is still work to be done to encourage more Americans to follow the recommendations outlined in the Dietary Guidelines.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines was informed by the recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which was composed of prestigious researchers in the fields of nutrition, health, and medicine, and by consideration of public and federal agency comments.
Since 1980, HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have shared a responsibility to the American public to ensure that advancements in scientific understanding about the role of nutrition in health are incorporated into the Dietary Guidelines, which is updated every five years. USDA has also released updates for consumers on ChooseMyPlate.gov, and new resources will soon be available on Health.gov from HHS that will help health professionals support their clients and patients in making healthy choices.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is available at health.gov.
Publications & Tools
Recording of the Dec. 9 Connect & Explore Webinar now available!
New research on the cost-effectiveness and impact of interventions to reduce childhood obesity was the focus of the most recent Connect & Explore Webinar. A recording and slides from the webinar, which presented the latest findings from the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) project, are now available. CHOICES is a collaborative modeling effort designed to evaluate the effectiveness, costs, and reach of interventions to reduce childhood obesity in the United States.
New report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers provides important insights on SNAP benefits
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits alleviate hunger and improve short-term health and academic performance as well as long-term health, educational attainment, and economic self-sufficiency, according to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. More than 45 million Americans currently receive SNAP benefits each month, including more than 20 million children. Released in December 2015, the report is entitled Long-Term Benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It details the short- and long-term benefits of SNAP and the growing body of evidence suggesting current benefit levels may be too low.
CDC releases School Health Profiles 2014
States are showing some improvements in health education and decreasing the purchasing of less healthful snacks, according to the latest data from School Health Profiles. Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with state and local education and health agencies, School Health Profiles is a system of surveys that assess school health policies and practices in states, large urban school districts, and territories. Profiles surveys are conducted biennially by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers.
Childhood Obesity Research & News
Why are poorer children more likely to be obese?
Dec. 11, 2015, Medical News Today
By Marie Ellis
New research published in The European Journal of Public Health reveals that poorer children are nearly three times as likely as their more well-off counterparts to be obese. But the important question is: why?
According to the study authors, who are led by Prof. Yvonne Kelly from University College London in the UK, obesity is linked to the development of many chronic diseases that pose significant health and economic burdens.
They explain that children who become overweight and obese are at higher risk of obesity throughout their lives.
Furthermore, overweight and obese children face higher risks of negative economic and social outcomes — in both childhood and adulthood.
As such, investigating the causes underlying childhood obesity is an important area of study from a psychological, economic, and public health perspective.
The researchers note that there “is limited evidence on which risk factors attenuate income inequalities in child overweight and obesity,” so they wanted to investigate “why these inequalities widen as children age.”
To conduct their study, the team used data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which tracks nearly 20,000 families in the UK.
Children who were tracked as part of the study were measured at age 5 and again at age 11.
Additionally, the researchers looked into many aspects of a child’s environment and health behaviors, such as whether the mother smoked during pregnancy, how long she breastfed the child, and whether solid foods were introduced before the age of 4 months.
The team also investigated whether the mother was overweight or obese.
Results showed a strong link between poverty and childhood obesity; at 5 years of age, poor children were nearly twice as likely to be obese, compared with their peers from better socioeconomic backgrounds.
In detail, 6.6 percent of children from the poorest fifth of families in the sample were obese, while only 3.5 percent of those from the richest fifth were obese.
Additionally, the team found that by age 11, the gap increased, with 7.9 percent from the poorest fifth being obese and only 2.9 percent from the richest fifth.
The researchers went into further detail when they looked into the impact of physical behavior by comparing frequency of sport or exercise, active play with a parent, TV-watching or computer hours, bike journeys, and child’s bedtime.
They also looked at dietary habits, including whether the child skipped breakfast, and fruit and sweet drink consumption. Doing sport more than three times per week, having an early bedtime and regular fruit consumption were positively associated with downward trends in weight categories.
Maternal smoking during pregnancy and a mother’s body mass index (BMI), however, were negatively associated with downward trends across weight categories.
Commenting on their findings, Prof. Kelly says:
The ‘structural’ causes of socioeconomic inequalities have to be addressed along with tackling ‘inherited’ obesity via lifestyle factors that tend to go with lower incomes. Early intervention with parents clearly has huge potential. And evidence from our work suggests that this should start before birth or even conception.
She and her team note that the markers of “unhealthy” lifestyle identified in the study could equate to as much as a 20 percent additional risk of childhood obesity.
Although the study benefits from a large nationally representative sample, the researchers admit to certain limitations. Firstly, their models were not able to fully explain income inequalities in children’s obesity, which suggests that some other risk factors should be considered in future work.
Secondly, the researchers are not able to conclude that there is a causal link between risk factors and income inequalities in overweight and obesity.
And finally, although maternal BMI was included in the “dietary environment” category, it could also reflect genetic as well as shared environment.
Still, the researchers say that more research should be undertaken in this area, given that the underlying processes involved in childhood overweight and obesity involve social, environmental and biological factors. They add:
A few studies also reveal that socioeconomic inequalities in overweight/obesity widen across childhood. These inequalities are likely explained by differential access to resources and/or knowledge by poorer parents who may practice worse health behaviors.
In March of this year, Medical News Today reported on a study that suggested many parents may not recognize child obesity in their kids.
Original source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303994.php
Kids who are better at tasting sugar are more likely to be overweight, study finds
Dec. 15, 2015, TIME
By Belinda Luscombe
Some kids can taste as little as 0.005 teaspoons of sugar in a fluid ounce of water. Others need three teaspoons until they register it. Logic would suggest that the less sugar-sensitive — those who need to add more sugar to get the hit of sweetness — would be more likely to be obese, right? Not according to new research.
A new study released by the Monell Center, which specializes studying taste and smell, found that it was the kids who could taste sugar at lower concentrations who were more likely to be overweight. Those kids also often had a specific gene variant that is known to influence receptiveness to bitter tastes.
The researchers looked at 216 healthy children between the ages of 7 and 14. Each one was tested for his or her sensitivity to sucrose by being given solutions of water and sucrose to swish around their mouths and then being asked if they could taste anything. Various aspects of the children’s weight were also recorded and their DNA was tested to find commonalities between the more sensitive subjects.
“We went into the study thinking that the kids who were very insensitive to sugar were going to be the obese kids, because they needed to consume more for the same effect,” says Danielle Reed, PhD, a behavioral geneticist, the lead author of the study which will be published in the journal Nursing Research. “But we actually found the opposite. The obese kids were more sensitive.”
The researchers can’t quite figure out why, but speculate that it might be because if sugar has a very strong effect on the receptors on the tongue, it may also have a strong effect on other organs in the body. It could also be that sugar has a different effect on the biology or metabolism of those who react to it in smaller doses.
In general, children are more sensitive to sugar than adults and, as the junior mob riots in Dylan’s Candy Bar prove daily, they like higher levels of sugar than adults do and will make heroic efforts to seek it out. These preferences decline during adolescence, as kids stop growing. Scientists think that’s because sugar is great for bone growth but used to be hard to find, so humans evolved to favor it while young.
While parents tend to protest if their kids are adding a lot of sugar to their food, Reed says the children may not be doing it just to be excessive. “The big message is that kids are really, really different in their sensitivity to sugar,” says Reed. “Parents may be freaking out that their kids are adding a lot of sugar or want a lot of sugar in things, but certain kids are pretty insensitive so it could be that they’re adding it just so they can taste it.”
At this stage it’s not worth getting your child’s DNA analyzed to see whether they’re more or less sensitive to sugar, or if adding a lot of sugar is going to make them fat. There’s a much easier way to find out: look at your kids’ parents. (Often, that’s you.) If you have a chubby elementary or middle schooler and aren’t sure if he or she is going to grow out of it or needs to change his or her diet, your go-to data set is the chubbiness of you and your spouse.
While there are many myths around how unhealthy sugar is — no it isn’t making your kid hyperactive — it’s still pretty clear that it should not be a big part of your or your child’s diet, and this study doesn’t change that conventional wisdom. “When we were evolving sugar was very rare and very helpful,” says Reed. “Now it’s too available and it has turned on us.”
Fresh-made meals a learning experience at schools
Dec. 5, 2015, Boston Globe
By James Vaznis
The biggest lunch-time favorites in the Fenway High School cafeteria were not even on the menu. Dozens of Boston students swarmed two chefs — rare figures in a land of lunch ladies — who were giving out samples of vegetables that finicky students tend to disdain: broccoli and kale.
The remarkable sight of teenagers scarfing down such healthy fare came down to preparation. The chefs sneaked the kale into a chicken and cheese quesadilla, and they oven-roasted fresh broccoli, then mixed it with parmesan and raw garlic.
In a novel experiment this fall, Fenway High has transformed its cafeteria into a test kitchen, teaming up with the nonprofit Project Bread to create new entrees that can be reproduced at cafeterias across the city.
The goal is to introduce healthy dishes that students will actually eat, while also staying on budget. It is a tall order for a school system that spends less than $1 per serving on each lunch entrée and yet has been racking up millions of dollars in losses, leaving little room to spend more on food.
“It’s not enough to have healthy food,” said Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread, a statewide anti-hunger organization based in Boston. “We need to have healthy food that tastes good so kids will eat it…This is a big step ahead for Fenway High and the entire system.”
Whether kids are eating healthy meals they like might seem tangential in an age of high-stakes testing, urban violence, and playground bullying. But a growing body of research has revealed a link between nutrition and achievement, and schools today are the main source of food each day for millions of students nationwide.
Boston’s test kitchen could inspire other districts to rethink school food. But as often occurs in public education with large-scale initiatives, the experiment may be doomed by the cost. The trick, supporters say, is to get more students to eat the food. That would increase the per-student federal reimbursements for school-lunch participation and help to steer the city’s school-food program into the black.
School officials contend that if the project proves successful, they will be able to serve up more lunches with few increases in overhead costs. About 73 percent of Boston students participate in the school lunch program and all students, regardless of income, can eat breakfast and lunch for free under a federal initiative for districts with high levels of low-income students.
So far, early results from Fenway High look promising. Students often asked for seconds at the taste testings and now the Fenway High menu features nine of the 18 tested food items, including the parmesan-garlic broccoli and the chicken quesadilla. This month, Project Bread chefs started teaching the recipes to cooks from other schools.
But Boston is severely constrained on how many schools can serve fresh meals. About two-thirds of the city’s 125 schools lack full-service kitchens, preventing cooking from scratch. Instead, these schools — many of them built decades ago when students went home for lunch or brought food to school — rely on frozen entrees trucked in from a food-production facility on Long Island, N.Y., and then warmed up in convection ovens.
The entrees, which are packaged in black trays, feature sweet and sour chicken, macaroni and cheese, and other fare. Many parents and students have held up the frozen meals as glaring deficiencies in the lunch program.
But school officials stress the nutritional value of the frozen lunches is comparable to freshly prepared meals, noting both conform to federal nutritional standards.
For elementary schools, lunches must contain between 550 and 650 calories and no more than 640 milligrams of sodium. At high schools, the guidelines are between 750 and 850 calories and no more than 740 milligrams of sodium. In all cases, less than 10 percent of calories can come from saturated fats.
In a state where Brookline High School features sushi and Cambridge serves up student-grown produce, the steps taken by Fenway High and Project Bread might seem modest.
But large urban systems nationwide — hampered by high labor costs and schools without kitchens — are struggling to overhaul their programs to comply with five-year-old changes in federal standards for school lunches. The changes, pushed by Michelle Obama, call for whole grains, more fresh produce, and reducing sodium levels, among other measures.
The requirements have shed light on a big problem: Many urban districts, in order to cook healthy, need to spend an average of $87,743 for walk-in refrigerators, ovens, or other appliances at each school, according to a February report by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Many districts don’t have an equipment-replacement program,” said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between Pew and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “If something is broken they change the menu.”
Some large districts are aggressively forging ahead with upgrades.
Minneapolis is spending more than $100 million to build dozens of kitchens. The district already has installed salad bars in most schools, a move Boston has resisted, insisting it is too expensive.
“The community really rallied behind us,” said Bertrand Weber, director of culinary and nutrition services for Minneapolis schools. “Because of that support it really rose as a priority for the school district to shift money in the capital renewal plan to build new kitchens and dining rooms.”
Even Detroit, which only emerged from bankruptcy a year ago, has pursued innovation, opening a two-acre farm that grows produce for school meals.
“I definitely think people are seeing lunch as a critical need for students to focus and succeed rather than just being an interruption in their day,” said Jennifer LeBarre, executive director for nutritional services at Oakland, Calif., schools, which is planning to build a new central kitchen with a one-acre teaching farm. “It used to be there was never a connection made between school lunch and why it was needed and why it was important.”
Research has changed that view. A 2003 study, for instance, found that kindergartners from homes struggling to put food on the table “not only score lower at the beginning of the year but also learn less over the course of the school year” than students from other households. The study, published in Contemporary Economic Policy, examined more than 21,000 students in a thousand U.S. schools.
The correlations come down to common sense, researchers and educators say. Students are more focused when they are well fed instead of being distracted by growling bellies or struggling with fatigue because of poor nutrition.
Many students at Fenway High put it another way: A bad lunch can wreck the entire afternoon.
“I’ll throw the food out and I’ll have attitude all day,” said Janae Beauliere, 16, a sophomore. “I’ll just not want to do anything.”
But she adds, “When the food is good, I’m all sunshine.”
It is not known how many Boston students might be experiencing hunger. But the number could be significant, according to state data on students who are “economically disadvantaged,” a formula based on families receiving food stamps, Medicaid, or other welfare benefits. Nearly half of Boston students fall into this category.
Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang has made turning around the system’s food service program a top priority, said Barbara Deane-Williams, deputy superintendent of operations.
“We know students who are healthy, well-fed, and exercise bring that higher level of energy into the classroom,” Deane-Williams said.
Innovation has been stymied by the food service program’s nearly decade-long financial losses — as high as $4 million annually — that have led to cost-cutting measures that have riled parents.
The school system receives $3.19 in state and federal reimbursements for each lunch sold — a high amount based on the large percentage of low-income students Boston schools serves. More than half of that money covers labor and other overhead costs, leaving just $1.44 for the food.
After factoring in the cost of fruit, a vegetable, and milk, the school system has only 77 cents to spend on the protein and grain portions.
While food costs are a challenge, the financial woes run much deeper for Boston’s school-food program. A report commissioned last year by the school system also attributed Boston’s losses to poor inventory tracking and a “lack of organizational will to address structural issues.”
The Fenway High experiment is dramatically different than the school’s original proposal last fall: It wanted to secede from the food service program and create its own menu, hire its own kitchen staff, and order its own food.
But in a series of meetings with school district officials that persisted into the summer, discussion evolved into the broader experiment to use Fenway High to revolutionize cafeteria menus citywide.
Fenway High offers an ideal environment for a test kitchen, school officials say. This fall, it relocated from its longtime digs near Fenway Park to a refurbished school building in Mission Hill, which boasts a new full-service cafeteria.
“We want to get kids thinking more about what is healthy eating and that it is not just eating carrots,” said Peggy Kemp, the school’s headmaster.
The partnership represents a reunion of sorts. Project Bread started its chef-in-schools program in 2007 at two Boston middle schools and later worked with a few other city schools. This latest endeavor is far more ambitious, affecting cuisine across the system.
“We can’t afford to put a chef in every school — that is not cost-effective — but we can share the knowledge,” said Scott Richardson, director of research and strategic initiatives for Project Bread.
Project Bread has built a track record of getting students to eat healthier. Harvard University’s School of Public Health, in examining the nonprofit’s efforts in two districts outside Boston, found last year that students ate three-quarters of a cup more vegetables a week, twice as much as before the program brought in chefs. Project Bread assisted with the research.
Inside a cramped office in Fenway High’s kitchen, Richardson chronicles the experiment on his laptop using bar graphs breaking down student surveys on the taste testings. One afternoon, he proudly pointed to results for a chicken quesadilla: 75 percent rated it awesome and 23 percent good.
But then he pulled up lackluster results for chicken teriyaki — 29 percent deemed it awesome, 40 percent good, and 24 percent “just OK” — and declared that the recipe needed more work. A prime student complaint was not enough salt.
Getting kids to eat healthy often means breaking them of bad habits. The big ones: liking too much salt and snubbing their veggies. Project Bread has discovered ethnic dishes, with their mixture of spices, tend to entice picky eaters.
The program shies away from using posters or other advertising to promote healthy eating, believing instead that students gain more insight by talking with the chefs during taste tests.
The food samples often garnered immediate praise.
“Who made this?” Yira Genesis, an 11th-grader, asked as she held up a half-eaten chicken quesadilla. “That is the bomb!”
She high-fived chef Gaitskell Cleghorn Jr. “It was a collective effort,” he said.
The quesadilla, Genesis said, is like the Spanish food she eats at home.
Will Kadzis, 17, said the food is actually better than what he eats at home.
“I mostly eat sandwiches at home,” he said. “Sometimes I cook stuff in the microwave — pizza rolls, mac and cheese, leftovers.”
Project Bread has had to make trade-offs to stay on budget as it aims to replicate the recipes across the system, replacing such items as fresh chicken and broccoli with frozen varieties — a move that also reduces preparation time.
Some of the new recipes may even wind up in students’ homes. About a dozen parents showed up at Fenway High one drizzly Thursday evening for a cooking demonstration.
Beliza Moriarty brought her two sons in hopes of enticing them to try the food.
“They won’t eat the school lunch,” she said. “I make their lunch every day.”
Ezekiel, an 11th-grader, said he skips the lunch line because of long lines and potentially small portions. But he and his brother liked the Caribbean braised chicken, going for seconds. Their mom let out a big sigh of relief and said: “Yes!”
More exercise at school may be key to improving teens’ health
Dec. 8, 2015, Los Angeles Times
By Karen Kaplan
Researchers have a prescription for improving the health of America’s teens: Get more exercise at school.
Public health experts recommend that kids spend at least 30 minutes of the school day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity. That would get them halfway to the goal of exercising for at least an hour each day.
To make that happen, a typical school would need to devote 7.5 percent of its instructional time to physical fitness. Instead, students in the study spent a mere 4.8 percent of their school day — or 23.2 minutes — improving their bodies instead of their minds, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics.
“Because adolescents spend so much time at school, even a small increase in the proportion of at-school time spent physically active could lead to meaningful increases in overall physical activity and metabolic health,” the study authors wrote.
American teens have a reputation for being among the most sedentary in the world, with only 8 percent getting the recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day. That exercise deficit sets them up for a host of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It also saps their brainpower and causes their grades to suffer, studies show.
To see when and where teens were (and weren’t) getting exercise throughout the day, researchers outfitted 549 volunteers from Seattle and Baltimore with GPS monitors and activity trackers. The trackers recorded their location and their movement once every 30 seconds for about a week.
The volunteers — ages 12 to 16 — spent more of their waking hours at school than anywhere else, according to the GPS readings. On average, they passed 42 percent of their time at school, 28 percent at home, 13 percent in their neighborhoods, 4 percent near their schools, and the rest elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the activity trackers revealed that the students averaged 39.4 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity over the course of each day. On school days, 55 percent of those minutes were tallied at school.
When weekends were factored in, 42 percent of the week’s total exercise occurred on school grounds. The amount of time teens spent exercising was more than 25 percent higher on school days than on weekend days, according to the study.
Although schools accounted for biggest share of total exercise, they were also the places where teens were most likely to be sedentary. Over the course of a week, 4.8 percent of time at school was spent getting exercise. That compared with 5.3 percent of time at home, 9.5 percent of time in one’s neighborhood, 9.7 percent of time near school and 7.1 percent of time in other places.
In each of these locations, boys got more exercise than girls, the researchers found. Policymakers should keep that in mind when designing programs to boost physical fitness among teens, the study authors wrote.
The analysis turned up no differences in exercise patterns based on teens’ race or ethnicity, or whether their parents had a college degree.
In addition to endorsing more physical education at school, the researchers suggested that teens spend more time in the areas near their homes and schools, since those were places where teens tended to be more active.
“Increasing time in home and school neighborhoods might increase physical activity, partly by reducing time spent in less active locations,” they wrote.