Awareness of Obesity in Today’s Youth

By Greg S.

“The effects of out-of-school time on changes in youth risk of obesity across the adolescent years,” a recent study by Zarrett and Bell (2014), examines the effects of out of school time activities on youth weight through the mid to late adolescence years using pattern centered methods and modeling procedures to obtain results. They examined the links between how youth spend their out of school time across various active and non-active activities during the 7th, 8th and 11 grade levels and the Body Mass Index trajectories across the adolescent years.

Health care providers are well aware that obesity is recognized as the main health threat for youth (Zarrett & Bell, 2014). Recent US statistics reveal an alarming 34. 2% of youth are in this unhealthy percentile (Zarrett & Bell, 2014). Many innovative programs have been developed and implemented over the last several years in the school system to try and address and reduce obesity rates in youth but reductions in the physical education programs in the school systems has created increased challenges with adolescent obesity. The study by Zarrett and Bell examines the organized out of school time programs offered and its effect on unhealthy weights.

Statistics have shown that physical decreases as much as 50% through the middle to high school years and approximately 70% of youth do not participate in at least sixty minutes of daily physical activity (Zarrett & Bell). Often, obese children become obese adults because they have developed very unhealthy activity and eating lifestyles. The adolescent years have been identified as a critical period in the development of obesity thus the importance of engaging them early in physical activity and good eating habits. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to obesity and this providing a greater risk for health issues along the continuum of life.

Zarrett & Bell found mixed findings on the association between out of school time participation and healthy behaviours. They noted that studies have indicated, sports and organized activities in some out of school programs did not meet recommended physical activity guidelines for youth and contributed little to the prevention of obesity. They found that only one study examined the relation of non-sports out of school time programs to BMI in youth and results showed that children ages 7-9 who participated in sports activities had lower BMI than youth who did not participate in programs (Zarrett & Bell, 2014).

The outcome based results of Zarrett & Bell , are in line with their hypothesis, that adolescence who were continually active in sports for 2+ years during their out of school time as young adolescence were at less risk for obesity during their Grade 11 year, than those who did not participate in out of school active programs . The results proved that youth who were categorized as risks for obesity, were consistent in all three grades. The children that were active for over 2+ years had a decrease in the odds for obesity in the 11th grade, and had the most significant lowered odds of being at risk than any other activity pattern (Zarrett & Bell). It became evident that duration, type, time and frequency of the activity do matter in whether youth participation influences BMI trajectories though middle to late adolescence (Zarrett & Bell).

The study provided insight and confirmed that the type of activity youth regularly partake in a day is important in dictating a healthy lifestyle and adolescents involved in sports and physical activity are at less risk for obesity and have an increased chance of staying within a normal weight or changing to a normal weight across these critical years. The challenge is that some youth find organized sport too competitive, exclusive and for many unaffordable. The older adolescents become the more intimating joining a sports team can be and due to self confidence etc. there is a greater level of drop out. Community and school based out of school programs can be a healthy alternative to organized sports leagues and provide the same healthy benefits. More work is required to improve community and school based out of school time programs to ensure they are meeting the required physical needs as well as making programs appealing to youth in the mid- late adolescent years to lesson the chance of drop out.

The results of the recent study by Zarrett & Bell, found that adolescent out of school time activity patterns are very important in determining health outcomes and indicate the importance of providing more physical activity based opportunities for youth out of school time programs. Participating in sports at a young age not only helps in decreasing the risk of obesity, but helps to provide opportunities for youth to value sports as well as improve health promotion along the continuum of the adolescence years and throughout a life time.

Zarrett, N. & Bell, B. (2014). “The effects of out-of -school time on changes in

youth risk of obesity across the adolescent years”. Journal of Adolescence, 37(1), 85-96.

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One Response to Awareness of Obesity in Today’s Youth

  1. jordandavenport says:

    It is appalling to think that youth obesity rates are going to continue to rise if something is not done. This is one reason why programs need to make sure that they can attract youth and give them positive experiences to keep them involved. If youth are given bad experiences at a young age it can cause a high dropout rate, which can then possibly lead to an inactive child. Some of this also has to fall into the hands of the parents; I realize that parents can’t force physical activity because that might make the child shy away even more. Parents should set a limit on screen time and encourage their child to get out and be active and role model healthy behaviors. I agree that if children form bad habits like eating junk food or become sedentary, it is something that will be carried over into adulthood. This is another reason why we have to make sure that we have trained leaders and coaches so that we can keep youth involved in different activities.

    I agree that some sports today are very competitive for youth and can be very expensive for parents as well. This does not stop the fact that children still don’t engage in enough “free play”, even if a child is not involved in sports, there is no reason why they should not be outside being active instead of being in front of a screen.

    Jordan D

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