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A study from the United Kingdom of extremely obese children showed that, after a 14-week aerobic exercise program, the children felt better about themselves and their bodies. The study included 81 obese children aged 11 to 16 years; 18 of the children were morbidly obese. Of the study sample, 30% scored high on a depression test and 27% reported having recent thoughts of suicide. The children were divided into 2 groups: half had one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer for 8 weeks, followed by a home exercise program for 6 weeks that included cycling, walking, and rowing. This group also received behavioral change counseling. The other participants, considered a placebo group, took part in nonstrenuous activities such as darts and billiards and received no counseling. Researchers said that having a placebo group allowed them to separate out the effects of exercise. Throughout the program and after its conclusion, children in the exercise group scored higher on tests gauging their sense of physical and global self-worth. Up to 14 weeks after the program ended, children in the exercise group remained significantly more active than those in the placebo group. Despite the fact that the children did not lose weight, the effects of being physically active on a regular basis could result in weight loss in the long term. Researchers said the next step is to make interventions more accessible to children. The report appeared in the November 2006 issue of Pediatrics.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.