Academic journal article Childhood Obesity

Physical Activity and Changes in Adiposity in the Transition from Elementary to Middle School

Academic journal article Childhood Obesity

Physical Activity and Changes in Adiposity in the Transition from Elementary to Middle School

Article excerpt

[Author Affiliation]

Marsha Dowda. 1 Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Sharon E. Taverno Ross. 2 Department of Health and Physical Activity, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Kerry L. McIver. 1 Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Rodney K. Dishman. 3 Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

Russell R. Pate. 1 Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Address correspondence to: Marsha Dowda, DrPH, Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, 921 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29208, E-mail: mdowda@mailbox.sc.edu

Introduction

Rates of overweight and obesity increased dramatically in American children and youth between the 1970s and the 2000s.1,2 Despite signs of plateauing in some age groups, recent surveys indicate that the prevalence of obesity has continued to increase in US adolescents.2 There is broad agreement that these disquieting trends have resulted from multiple secular changes in American society,3 and it is clear that there are important short- and long-term health risks associated with excessive weight during childhood.4,5 For that reason, numerous authoritative organizations have recommended that steps be taken to prevent excessive weight gain during childhood and adolescence. These recommendations have consistently emphasized the need to promote healthy eating and physical activity in young people.6-9

While the need to prevent obesity in US youth is now recognized as an important societal goal,10 actions in the healthcare sector have focused primarily on treating existing childhood obesity rather than preventing the condition.11,12 In the public health and education sectors, professionals have mounted numerous initiatives aimed at preventing childhood obesity; however, few of those initiatives have succeeded in producing reductions in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in targeted groups.13 A key factor that limits the effectiveness of prevention efforts is a lack of research that identifies the modifiable factors that underlie excessive weight gain in children and youth. If those factors were well understood, public health interventions could be focused on addressing the precursors to overweight and obesity.14,15

Some previous studies have utilized prospective longitudinal designs to examine factors that may underlie excessive weight gain in young people.16-18 However, the number of such studies is modest, and the methods used in those studies have been highly variable.16-18 Many of the studies have included measures of physical activity and dietary behavior. Some studies have examined sedentary behavior as well as physical activity, but were limited by the use of self-report measures.19 BMI frequently was used as the measure of weight status,16 but in developing children, change in BMI may not be an accurate indicator of change in adiposity.20,21

This diversity in study methods is exemplified by two investigations, both of which used prospective observational designs with sizable cohorts.19,22 Fulton et al.19 followed more than 400 children and adolescents for 4 years and measured weight-related outcomes with bioelectrical impedance. Developmental status was assessed by Tanner staging, and estimated energy intake was considered in their statistical models. However, this study's protocol was limited by the use of self-report measures of physical activity and sedentary behavior. In contrast, Mitchell et al. …

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