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More physical activity, less screen time linked with lower BMI in kids

Children who meet guidelines encouraging more physical activity and less TV have a lower risk of obesity, according to new research presented over the weekend at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.

Carried out by a team from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., the study looked at the effect of the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines on 357 children aged 5-18 years.

The internationally recognized guidelines include recommendations on amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), sedentary behavior, and sleep for children and teenagers.

They recommend a minimum of 60 minutes MVPA on at least 5 days per week, less than 2 hours a day of screen time, and sleeping 9 to 11 hours/night for 5-13 year olds, and 8 to 10 hours/night for 14-18 year-olds.

For the study, the researchers measured the children’s levels of physical activity, sedentary behavior, and amount of sleep using questionnaires. Measurements of height and weight were taken to calculate each child’s BMI, and levels of body fat were also measured.

Thirty-five percent of children met the guidelines on MVPA, 31 per cent met the targets on sedentary behavior, and 52 per cent met the target for sleep duration. Twenty-seven percent of the sample group achieved none of the guidelines.

The results showed that those children who met all three guidelines had an 89 per cent lower risk of being obese than the children who met none of the guidelines. Those who met two out of three guidelines benefited from a 40 per cent reduced risk of obesity compared to those meeting none of the guidelines, while those who achieved 1 out of 3 guidelines had a 24 per cent lower risk.

In addition, the team also found that those who achieved the recommended guidelines on physical activity also had significantly lower levels of body fat, and those who met the levels of sedentary behavior and sleep had a significantly lower BMI and lower levels of body fat.

Being overweight or obese, and carrying excess body fat are all known risk factors for a variety of serious health conditions including diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and even dementia, with research suggesting that the harmful effects of obesity can start as early as childhood.

Based on their findings the researchers concluded that: “This work suggests that interventions that target multiple lifestyle behaviors may have a potent effect on levels obesity and overweight in children.”

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No motivation to exercise? Focus less on intensity, and more on happiness

You join a gym with the intention of improving your fitness and losing weight, only to lose motivation and stop going within a matter of weeks. Sound familiar? You’re not alone; 67 percent of us have gym memberships that we never use. But for women, focusing on exercise that makes them happy, rather than focusing on exercise intensity, may be key to maintaining motivation for physical activity.
This is the conclusion of a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health.

The research included 40 women aged between 22 and 49 years. Of these, 29 were deemed inactive (defined as exercising for under 120 minutes each week), while 11 were considered active (defined as exercising for at least 120 minutes weekly).

Study co-author Michelle Segar, of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research Policy Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues asked the women what makes them feel happy and successful.

Additionally, the women were asked about their beliefs and attitudes toward exercise, and the researchers looked at how these conformed with their measures of happiness and success.

“A new understanding of what really motivates women might make an enormous difference in their ability to successfully incorporate physical activity into their daily routine – and have fun doing it,” notes Segar.

Beliefs about exercise negate women’s needs for happiness, success

The researchers found that the elements required for happiness and success were the same for both groups of women.

The women reported that spending time with family, friends, and even pets is important for happiness and success, as is helping other people.

Feeling relaxed and free from pressures during leisure time was another key factor for happiness and success for the women, as was accomplishing goals, ranging from completing a grocery shop to getting a promotion.

Interestingly, however, for women who were inactive, the researchers found that their beliefs about physical activity counteracted their ingredients for happiness.

For example, the inactive women believed that for exercise to be “valid,” it had to be intense, which negated their need to be relaxed in their leisure time.

What is more, women who were inactive said they felt “pressured” to exercise in order to improve their health or to lose weight, which thwarts their desire to be free from pressure during leisure time.

“You have to do this at this time, and you have to commit to these hours. You have to do this activity. You have to be so good,” one woman reported. “I feel like it’s a lot of pressure for me, with exercise, to perform and do well and commit to that schedule. I can’t commit.”

These perceived expectations about physical activity stop inactive women from reaching their exercise goals, the team notes, and reaching goals is one of their requirements for happiness and success.

The direct conflict between what these low-active women believe they should be doing when they exercise, and their desire to decompress and renew themselves during leisure time, demotivates them.

Their beliefs about what exercise should consist of and their past negative experiences about what it feels like actually prevents them from successfully adopting and sustaining physically active lives.”

Michelle Segar

A more relaxed approach to exercise might boost motivation

According to Segar and colleagues, conventional beliefs about physical activity have fueled misperceptions about exercise requirements.

“We’ve all been socialized to exercise and be physically active for the last 30 years,” notes Segar.

“The traditional recommendation we’ve learned to believe is that we should exercise at a high intensity for at least 30 minutes, for the purpose of losing weight or improving our health. Even though there are newer recommendations that permit lower-intensity activity in shorter durations most people don’t know or even believe it.”

She adds that this traditional information may have helped a small number of individuals, but for the population as a whole, it has failed to boost physical activity.

“This traditional approach to exercising might actually harm exercise motivation. Our study shows that this exercise message conflicts with and undermines the very experiences and goals most women have for themselves,” says Segar.

So, what can be done to increase women’s motivation to exercise? According to the researchers, women with low physical activity should perhaps take note of the attitudes to exercise reported by highly active women.

Women who were highly active said that it “was not the end of the world” if they didn’t make it to the gym now and again, and they did not place exercise as one of their highest priorities. This more relaxed approach to physical activity might increase the motivation to exercise.

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Regular physical activity and reduced sedentary time reduces build-up of dangerous liver fat

New research presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal (17-20 May) shows that both regular physical activity and avoiding inactivity (sedentary behaviour) help reduce build-up of dangerous liver fat, an important complication of obesity. The study is conducted by Dr Kelly Bowden-Davies and led by Dr Dan Cuthbertson, Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, University of Liverpool, UK, and colleagues.

The role of exercise in the prevention and treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a consequence of obesity, is well established. Until more recently, previous research has focused on the therapeutic benefit of increased moderate-vigorous activity, as opposed to habitual physical activity. In this study, the authors investigated the influence of habitual physical activity on metabolic health and in particular, the amount of liver fat.

The authors recruited volunteers for their study using local advertisements. People could volunteer for the study with any level of physical activity, male or female. They needed to be aged 18-60 years, and be non-smokers. It was also required that they have no history of diabetes, cardiovascular, kidney, respiratory or endocrine disease.

A total of 75 healthy people (mean age 35 years old, mean BMI 25 kg/m²) were recruited for the study. They underwent comprehensive assessments of physical activity patterns using a SenseWear armband, of metabolic health using internationally accepted criteria, regional body composition using magnetic resonance imaging and physical fitness testing. Statistical analyses were then performed.

Participants were subsequently categorised as healthy if they had 2 or less components of metabolic syndrome, and unhealthy if they had three or more. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that can raise the risk of heart disease or stroke: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. On this basis, there were 61 (81%) healthy and 14 (19%) unhealthy patients.

The authors found there was no significant difference in physical activity in terms of sedentary behaviour, number of steps or moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) between metabolically healthy and unhealthy individuals. However, the metabolically unhealthy individuals had significantly lower physical fitness and higher liver fat. For every unit increase in % liver fat, the odds of being metabolically unhealthy increased 37%. Furthermore, for every one hour of increased sedentary time, liver fat increased by 0.87%, while for every daily increase of 1000 steps, liver fat decreased by 0.87%. Interestingly, there was no significant association between hours of MVPA and liver fat.

The authors conclude: “In these individuals, sedentary behaviour and daily step counts are important determinants of the amount of liver fat and in turn of metabolic health status. These findings reinforce the role of avoiding sedentary behaviour even in the absence of increased MVPA.”

They add: “These data have shown that the amount of time we spend engaging in structured exercise does not predict health status. We reveal an emerging trend in overall physical activity levels that indicate moving about more throughout the day (for example breaking up long periods of sitting) is perhaps more important.”

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Higher intensity physical activity reduces likelihood of fatigue in healthy older adults

Physical activity interventions that emphasize vigorous exercise may help high-functioning older adults maintain low fatigability, according to data presented at the American Geriatrics Society Annual Scientific Meeting.

“Fatigability has been identified as a marker of mobility decline in older adults,” A. R. Peterson, from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Few studies have examined the relationship between different types and intensities of physical activity and fatigability in physically-able, older adults.”

Peterson and colleagues examined the cross-sectional and longitudinal association between regular walking, brisk walking and vigorous exercise and perceived fatigability in 10-minute increments. Fatigability was measured after a patient walked on a treadmill for 5 minutes at 1.5 mph using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The researchers enrolled 664 participants aged between 60 and 89 years from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (29% black, 51% women). Individuals who were unable to complete a 400-m walk without a walking aid, reported difficulty walking a quarter of a mile or had a gait speed of less than 0.67 m/s were excluded.

After adjusting for age, sex and race, the cross-sectional analysis showed that fatigability was independently associated with both vigorous exercise and brisk walking. Each additional 10 minutes per week of vigorous exercise was associated with a .03 lower RPE (P < .001). Similarly, each additional 10 minutes per week of brisk walking was associated with a .02 lower RPE (P = .023). After adjusting for depressive symptoms, lower extremity pain, balance, and falls, only vigorous exercise continued to be associated with lower fatigability (P < .001). In the longitudinal analysis adjusted for baseline fatigability, follow-up time (mean = 2.4 years), age, sex, race, each additional 10 minutes per week of vigorous exercise was associated with a .01 lower RPE (P = .035). Neither brisk walking nor regular walking were associated with fatigability over time.

“Older adults aged 60 to 89 may benefit from increasing the intensity of their physical activity in order to maintain low fatigability,” Peterson and colleagues concluded. “Thus, physical activity interventions should emphasize vigorous exercise in healthy older adults as brisk walking and moderate walking are not sufficient to promote favorable fatigability levels.” – by Alaina Tedesco


Peterson AR, et al. “Intensity of physical activity and fatigability in high-functioning older adults.” Presented at: American Geriatrics Society Annual Scientific Meeting; May 18-20, 2017; San Antonio.

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For the first time, more than half of Americans are getting the recommended amount of exercise

Americans are getting more active.

On May 22, the US Centers for Disease Control published preliminary results of 2016 National Health Interview Survey. These surveys have been conducted annually since 1997, and ask a geographically and racially representative sample of over 73,000 adults about their health habits. For the first time, more than half of Americans reported that they got the recommended amount of leisurely physical activity.

Adults should get either 150 minutes of moderate movement, like walking or yoga, or 75 minutes of intense exercise, like running, per week. These results have been adjusted to reflect the relative number of people in different age groups.

Even though exercise has increased, metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes have increased or plateaued over the years.

These two conditions are often tied to low levels of physical activity. Being obese isn’t a health concern itself, but the other conditions associated with it, like heart disease, can put a dangerous strain on the body over time. Similarly, type-2 diabetes is caused in part by prolonged high levels of blood sugar; treatment for it usually includes medication and physical activity, the latter of which can actually reverse it over time. (Type-1 diabetes is when the body cannot produce enough insulin, and is not caused by being overweight. Although the survey question didn’t distinguish between the two types of diabetes, type-1 diabetes only makes up a small fraction of diabetes cases.)

In theory, more physical activity should bring obesity and diabetes rates down, but it could be that the benefits of exercise take a few years to materialize. Additionally, poor diets could be undermining the work of physical activity. Even with exercise, consuming too many calories will still cause weight gain.

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Family dog found helping boost physical activity for kids with disabilities

SEATTLE, (Xinhua) — A new study from Oregon State University (OSU) indicates that the family dog could serve as a partner in efforts to help children with disabilities incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives.

Researchers found in a case study published in the journal Animals of one 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and his family’s dog that the intervention led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions.

Before starting the intervention, the researchers took initial assessments of the child’s daily physical activity, motor skills and quality of life, and designed a program where the family dog would serve as a partner; a veterinarian examined the dog’s fitness for participation and assessed the human-animal interaction between the dog, a year-old Pomeranian, and the child.

As children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy spend significantly less time participating in physical activity compared to their peers and are considered a health disparity group, meaning they generally face more health concerns than their peers, the family dog is a good choice for this type of intervention because the animal is already known to the child and there is an existing relationship, said Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and corresponding author on the study.

Then the pair began the eight-week intervention, which included a supervised physical activity program once a week for 60 minutes and participation in activities such as brushing the dog with each hand; playing fetch and alternating hands; balancing on a wobble board; and marching on a balancing disc.

“The dog would also balance on the wobble board, so it became a challenge for the child — if the dog can do it, I can, too,” MacDonald was quoted as saying in a news release this week. “It was so cool to see the relationship between the child and the dog evolve over time. They develop a partnership and the activities become more fun and challenging for the child. It becomes, in part, about the dog and the responsibility of taking care of it.”

The child wore an accelerometer to measure physical activity levels at home.

At the conclusion of the intervention, the researchers re-assessed and found that the child’s quality of life had increased significantly in several areas, as assessed by the child as well as the parent. In addition, the child’s sedentary behavior decreased and time spent on moderate to vigorous activity increased dramatically.

Also as one of the first to evaluate how a dog’s behavior and wellbeing are affected by their participation in animal-assisted therapy, the study shows that the relationship between the dog and the child improved over the course of the therapy.

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#MoveInMay – Get up and Get Moving

It’s National Physical Fitness & Sports Month! The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition is excited to keep the journey from #0to60 going by encouraging everyone to #MoveInMay.

This May, stay motivated with the President’s Council’s Presidential Champions and Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) programs! Each program allows you to track your daily physical activity and earn awards.

There are countless ways to get moving and we are asking our partners to help us inspire all Americans to be active. We’ve created this #MoveInMay Playbook where you can find themes, tips and motivational messages that you can promote throughout the month. You can also get ideas to #MoveInMay and every day at!

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State Physical Activity Plans – Expanding Roadmaps for Change

By Kate Olscamp, Communications Coordinator with the National Physical Activity Plan AllianceExternal Link: You are leaving

The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) acts as a comprehensive roadmap facilitating widespread achievement of the Physical Activity Guidelines. The vision of the NPAPExternal Link: You are leaving is that “one day, all Americans will be physically active, and they will live, work, and play in environments that encourage and support regular physical activity.” The realization of this vision will require a groundswell of public support and involve a unified effort at the community, state, and national level.

Connecting with States – A Developing Project of the NPAPA

The latest versionExternal Link: You are leaving of the NPAP, updated in 2016External Link: You are leaving, includes overarching priorities which serve to guide the direction of the plan, and the field, moving forward.  One of these overarching priorities is to support the development and implementation of comprehensive physical activity strategic plans at state, regional, and community levels. State initiatives are particularly critical since a great deal of public health policy development occurs at the state level. Establishing physical activity as a statewide priority can help to guide the funding and resource allocation necessary to implement the strategies and tactics within the national and state level physical activity plans. To support this goal the NPAPA is launching a new state-focused initiative. The project, led by Bill Kohl, PhD, MSPH and Eloise Elliot, PhD, will catalogue plans in use throughout the country in an effort to understand the current state-level landscape. The team supporting this effort will examine state-level physical activity plans, as well as broader chronic disease or obesity plans that contain physical activity strategies. This project expands upon research completedExternal Link: You are leaving earlier in the history of the planExternal Link: You are leaving, and serves as the first step in the achievement of a crucial NPAP overarching priority.

Lessons Learned from a Plan in Action

One of the plans to be included within the newest cataloguing initiative is the West Virginia Physical Activity PlanExternal Link: You are leaving Released in early 2012, the West Virginia Physical Activity Plan is modeled after the NPAP and includes eight sectors relevant to the West Virginia community.  The plan is built around 5 priority areas including:

  1. School Based Programs (through the implementation of ActiveWV Schools)
  2. Public Awareness and Marketing (through the “Be Wild. Be Wonderful. Be Active.” Campaign)
  3. Community Engagement and Environment
  4. Institutional and Organizational Support (focusing on the ActiveWV Health Care program)
  5. Policy

A recent assessment examined the ability for evaluation within the West Virginia plan. Results highlighted the need for an entity in charge of implementation and the simplification of the plan into sector specific logic models. Authors suggest these changes will foster continued application of the plan into the communities it aims to impact.

The Role of States in the National Physical Activity Plan

The focus on the state level within the NPAP extends beyond a single overarching priority and new initiative. In total six sectors, two strategies, and over twenty-five tactics include content specific to state-level activities. Tactics at the state level include:

  • From Community Recreation, Fitness and Parks: Advocate for strong governor advisory panels on physical activity to ensure development of state-level physical activity policies and partnerships between government, community based organizations, and the private sector.
  • From Transportation, Land Use and Community Design: Encourage state governments to provide incentives for local jurisdictions to adopt mixed-use zoning laws.
  • From the Public Health Sector: Support the creation of a physical activity and health unit in state health departments that functions as part of an integrated and coordinated approach to chronic disease prevention.

Outside the plan itself, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA) has developed a State Liaison NetworkExternal Link: You are leaving designed to enhance the impact of the NPAP at the state level. Liaisons work in varying capacities including positions within state health departments, community organizations, and academic institutions. Participating individuals serve as representatives for the plan within their states, and are in turn able to share innovative projects and initiatives going on in their area with the national group. The network ensures continued connection with the state level, helping the NPAPA maintain a pulse on the local activities.

To learn more about the NPAP, the State Liaison Network, or ways that you can support this state physical activity plan initiative, visit the NPAP websiteExternal Link: You are leaving or connect with the NPAP Alliance on social media through FacebookExternal Link: You are leaving or TwitterExternal Link: You are leaving

Spread the Word! Share this post with your social network using this sample message: Check out how @NationalPAPlanExternal Link: You are leaving is engaging with state level #PhysicalActivity plans to increase activity nationwide! Link: You are leaving

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Home neighborhood motivates older people to physical activity

A recent study conducted at the Gerontology Research Center of the University of Jyväskylä shows that walk-friendly environmental design may provide opportunities for physical activity in old age. However, especially when mobility function starts to decline, it is important that older adults are aware of attractive environmental factors in their neighborhood.

Physical activity helps to maintain health and function. In old age, physical activity takes place mostly in the home neighborhood. Thus it is important to know if there are attractive environmental features in the neighborhood to motivate older adults to physical activity also when they experience physical limitations, Senior Researcher Erja Portegijs explains.

The results of this study show that physical activity was higher in participants living in a neighborhood with higher walkability. The walkability index reflects opportunities to walk to different destinations, e.g. for shopping and meeting people. The walkability index is an objective measure that can be calculated from open-source geographical information (maps).

The results also show that participants reporting higher numbers of environmental facilitators for outdoor mobility also reported higher levels of physical activity than those perceiving fewer environmental facilitators in their neighborhood. For example, nearby shops, nature and suitable walkways motivated participants to outdoor mobility. The relationship was especially strong for those with limited physical function.

It seems that perceiving attractive factors in the environment becomes especially important for physical activity when mobility function starts to decline and people may need to choose more carefully how to use their energy during the day, Portegijs concludes.

In total 839 inhabitants of Jyväskylä and Muurame in Central Finland participated in this study. The study participants were 75–90 years old and were interviewed at home. Participants were grouped according to the score obtained from a mobility test. Physical activity was assessed by a self-report questionnaire and with an accelerometer that was worn for one week.

All participants were asked about environmental factors that motivated them to go outdoors. By mapping the home address and studying the area up to 1 km from home, the researchers calculated an objective walkability index for their home neighborhood. The index is based on land use mix, population density and road network connectivity in the area.

Explore further: Out-of-home activities may promote older persons’ physical activity

More information: Erja Portegijs et al. Physical Limitations, Walkability, Perceived Environmental Facilitators and Physical Activity of Older Adults in Finland, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2017). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph14030333

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