Teens Developing Healthier Habits

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Efforts to help reduce childhood obesity in the United States may be working, according to new research that indicates adolescents are adopting healthier behaviors.

The study, published online on September 16, 2013, in Pediatrics, investigated 8-year trends in physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and dietary habits of adolescents aged 11 to 16 years using the Health Behavior in School-aged Children surveys in nationally representative samples of students recruited during the 2001-2002, 2005-2006, and 2009-2010 school years. African American and Hispanic students were oversampled.

Across the surveys, significant increases were seen in daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast, and the number of days teens participated in at least an hour of physical activity. Preteens and teens also spent less time watching TV and consumed fewer sweets and sugary drinks. Despite these improvements, adolescents spent the same amount of time playing video games and using the computer. Body mass index (BMI) also increased overall during the study period. There was no significant change in BMI, however, from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010, suggesting that the increase in adolescent obesity may be stabilizing. 

"These patterns suggest that public health efforts to improve the obesity-related behaviors of US adolescents may be having some success,” the authors conclude. “However, alternative explanations for the increase in BMI over the same period need to be considered.”