Exercise Clothing for Children in a Weight-Management Program

By Carroll, Kate; Alexander, Marina et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Exercise Clothing for Children in a Weight-Management Program


Carroll, Kate, Alexander, Marina, Spencer, Virginia, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


This study investigated whether clothing can be perceived as a form of encouragement for success in a weight management exercise program. A small (n = 30) sample of children and parents, enrolled in a weight-management exercise program, responded to a survey instrument that included questions regarding fit and comfort of the clothing children wore during an exercise program. Findings suggest that there is a need for better fitting, more comfortable exercise clothing for obese and overweight children and that if obese and overweight children are provided with well-fitting clothing for use in weight-management exercise programs, they will be motivated to increase participation from a social and psychological perspective. This could have significant impact on the motivation of children to exercise and lose weight.

Overweight/obesity is a national health issue affecting an estimated 31% of children and adolescents aged 10-17. The estimate for North Carolina currently stands at about 34% (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2006). Intervention programs exist, where children are rewarded for following an exercise regimen and making dietary changes. However, no studies have evaluated the impact of clothing in these programs. Fifty percent of overweight and obese teenagers who attended a focus group on plus size apparel reported wearing their parents' clothes because they could not find appropriate exercise clothing (Connell & Ulrich, 2004). ViQuest Clinic, part of East Carolina Health Systems, acknowledges that clients have reported similar problems.

The specific goals of this study were to:

* investigate existing issues with clothing of children in a weight-management exercise program,

* discover the type of clothing that is beneficial to children and parents/caregivers from the perspectives of comfort, ease of use, and attractiveness,

* determine the importance of exercise clothing to children and their parents/caregivers when the children engaged in obesity-related exercise programs, and

* make an initial determination as to children's attitudes toward proper fitting and attractive clothing as encouragement for success in a weight management exercise program.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and is the most common childhood chronic medical issue (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll, & Johnson, 2002). National data show that children who are obese run the risk of acquiring related conditions, such as diabetes, gall-bladder ailments, and psychological disorders. In North Carolina, direct medical costs (2003 dollars) associated with overweight/obesity for children and adolescents, ages 6-17, were estimated at $3.96 million (Be Active North Carolina, 2005).

Eastern North Carolina has an economically disadvantaged population with one of the poorest health records in the United States. Statewide, North Carolina ranked 41st of the 50 states in the America's Health State Health Rankings. North Carolina received a score of-7.5, which means it ranked 7.5% below the national average (Zwilich, 2004). Approximately 60% of adults in the region are either overweight or obese.

Exercise can be beneficial for children who are obese or overweight; they are encouraged to enroll in exercise-related programs to reduce weight and lessen health risk factors. A structured exercise intervention program can cause weight loss that is sustained over the course of one year (Nemet, et al., 2005). Even walking, the most basic form of exercise, can benefit children and reduce weight (Sweetgall, 1989).

Poor fitting clothing contributes to the perception of an imperfect body and body dissatisfaction (LaBat & DeLong, 1990). Comfortable and well-designed clothing has been shown to be a critical component in athletic performance (Dickson & Pollack, 1998). As well as performance enhancement, clothing can provide psychological benefits for the wearer, through identification with specific brands and suitable styling (Kwon & Shim, 1999). …

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