Obese Kids not Saved by a Few Days of Gym Class

By Alexander Caspary

Unfortunately, TV, junk food, video games and, well. fat parents, has given rise to the highest childhood obesity rate in history. (Yes, even with the pseudo-exercise offered by the wrist movement of the Nintendo Wii.) This is not an ideal situation, considering we are potentially poised to become the first generation to outlive our children.

Hopefully that gave you some kind of jolt, and you're asking, "What can we do?" Well, thankfully school-based programs are being given a lot of attention lately, with an overall aim to prevent weight gain and promote a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, whether or not these programs work is still suspect.

A recent study by the VU University in Amsterdam examined whether a health promotion campaign for Dutch adolescents would be successful in reducing body fat and promoting and aerobic fitness.

This study essentially included extra phys. ed. classes and provided healthy choices in the cafeteria. The end result of this 8-month study was a significant change in body composition of both male and female students but found no effects on physical fitness.

The question the general public needs to consider is whether this study actually provides useful information.

Dr. Sharma, a world leading obesity researcher states, "Obesity treatment consists of two distinct phases: Phase I: weight-loss and more importantly Phase II: prevention of weight regain. While Phase I is easy - Phase II is difficult. Only 1 out of 20 patients who are successful in Phase I will be successful in Phase II by relying on lifestyle changes alone."

So, while these school programs create a favorable environment for the Phase I component of weight loss, they really did nothing to convince kids to stay active, and get off the couch at home. Once the program is over, there is an elastic band effect snapping kids out of a new, healthy lifestyle and body weight. The problem: parents not enforcing these rules at home.

"Parents teach their kids about right and wrong. Part of that is teaching kids to be active, exercise their muscles, not just their thumbs," explains Dr. Qaadri, who is an opinion leader in the obesity field, "This way we develop lifelong habits of physical activity and healthy choices."

Presumably, the answer to the initial question: whether short-term school-based programs designed to reduce weight gain are effective, is a resounding maybe. Until these programs can initiate long-term lifestyle changes and educate families, they will always be compromised and limited in effectiveness. So, toss out the chips and cookies, and go outside and play with your kids. Because in thirty years you don't want to have to see them on Oprah.