Kids’ Activity Levels Drop Off as They Get Into Teen Years

Nine year-olds move around for over three hours a day. However, by age fifteen, their activity level drops to less than 45 minutes a day, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers found that only a third of teenagers got the recommended minimum one hour a day of aerobic exercise. Age 13 was the year that activity levels dropped off dramatically. On weekends, for example, activity decreased from 49 minutes to 30 a day.

“I was surprised by the degree of the drop: it’s a dramatic shift,” said Dr. James Griffin of the National Institute’s Center for Research for Mothers and Children. “Younger children appear to be naturally active, but as kids get older, they find fewer opportunities to be active.” Researchers spectulated that older teens tend to watch television or play videos with friends, rather than pursuing active games.

The study, led by Dr. Philip Nader, a professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Diego, tracked over 1000 American children from 2000 to 2006, providing them with devices that recorded their movement.

Percentage of New Teen Drivers Drops to Less Than a Third

Fewer teens are getting their driver’s licenses at age 16, according to a report from the Federal Highway Administration. Just 10 years ago, 43% of 16-year-olds were driving; today that figure has dropped to 29%.

Here are some of the reasons fewer teens are driving:

  • In 1980, 90% of public schools offered driver’s training; today less than 20% do, according to figures from the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association. Private driving schools are expensive – usually over $400 per course.
  • Insurance for young drivers costs more than ever. According to figures from Allstate Insurance, it costs 80% to 100% the cost of a policy to add a 16-year-old driver. In years past, the cost was nominal. Teens have the highest crash rate of any group on the road, so they naturally cost the most to insure.
  • More states are restricting 16-year-olds’ driving privileges. New rules say they can only drive at certain hours of the day and night, they need to have a licensed driver in the car, and they need to complete more hours of training than ever.
  • More parents are willing to chauffeur their teens to activities.

Watching TV and Video Games Linked to Teens’ High Blood Pressure

A new study links watching television to high blood pressure in teenagers.

A research team led by Dr. Nicolas Stettler, a pediatric nutrition specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, studied over 4,500 American adolescents ages 12 to 19 years old who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that sedentary activities and higher body mass indexes were associated with higher systolic blood pressure.

Dr. Stettler said that other studies have shown that decreasing sedentary activities such as watching television and playing video games helps treat obesity better than interventions that increase physical activity.

High blood pressure in adolescents is a marker for hypertension in adulthood. Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease and strokes.

This study appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Weight Loss Can Mean Loss of Lean Tissue, Not Fat

Is it better to lose weight by exercising or dieting? A study from the University of Michigan suggests that you need a combination of both.

Professor Steve Ball kept track of one group of women who joined a gym and another group who joined Weight Watchers. The women underwent CT scans at the beginning and end of the three-month study.

The Weight Watchers lost 5% of their body weight or an average of nine pounds. However, they did not lose fat but lean tissue.

The gym members did not lose any weight, but they lost significant amounts of belly fat and fat around their vital organs.

Professor Ball said lean tissue is necessary for a healthy metabolism.

“If you diet but don’t exercise, you’re going to lose lean tissue and your metabolism will drop,” he said. “When you get tired of your diet and you start eating with a slower metabolism, you will gain the weight back.” He believes that the best way to maintain a healthy weight is both to watch what you eat and have a structured exercise program.

Three Popular Diets Produce Only Modest Weight Losses

A major study of three popular reducing diets found that none of them work very well over the long term.

Researchers had 322 moderately obese people follow (1) a low-fat diet recommended by the American Heart Association, (2) a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet known as the Atkins Diet, or (3) the Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil.

Within the first five months, the Atkins group lost fourteen pounds, and the other two groups ten each. However, two years later, the low-fat dieters had only kept off six pounds. The other two groups did better by maintaining a ten pound loss.

The good news was that even small weight losses improved the cholesterol and blood sugar readings of participants.

“Any diet approach works short-term,” said a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Lona Sandon, “because most weight is lost in the first six months.”

The study was funded by the Atkins Foundation and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Weight loss camps & Weight loss spas

We have come a long way from the “fat camps” of the 70s and 80s.  Many of today’s weight loss camps and spas integrate clinically proven programs with adventure and a vacation-like atmosphere.  There are still old-school “fat camps” out there, but the remarkable success of the newer breed of weight loss camps has made most of these types of camps a thing of the past.

Weight Loss Adventure Camps

Weight loss camps that incorporate outdoor activities from hiking, surfing, white water rafting and other adventure sports have become very popular.  Kids and teens especially love the camps that offer fun group activities in the outdoors.

One of the advantages of camps that incorporate adventure is that they can teach a love of fitness.  Teens will often find that they really enjoy a particular activity and will want to continue it after returning home.

We all know weight management requires life-long commitment, so these camps get young people to try all types of new activities so they can discover what they love to do to get active for a life time.

Weight Loss Spas

Many adults prefer a luxury environment for losing weight. Weight loss spas often offer a variety of amenities along with healthy food and activities.  They may offer massages, facials, and other spa-like options.  Spas will usually have many types of exercise classes scheduled such as aerobics, yoga, and martial arts.  Some may also offer adventure-type activities such as hiking, white water rafting, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities.

You should choose a program that you know will work for you – if you prefer to take a long walk than to stand on a treadmill, choose the location that you will most enjoy.