Interventions for Weight Loss and Weight Gain Prevention Among Youth
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The recent increase in the prevalence of paediatric obesity is one of the most pressing public health concerns today because of the immediate and long term health consequences associated with this often intractable disease. Efforts are currently being made to reduce the prevalence of paediatric obesity.
Youth weight loss studies have produced significant long term results. Most of these programmes included behaviour modification, diet and exercise. Studies have suggested that lifestyle exercise programmes may produce the best long term results. Effective components of these programmes appear to be parental involvement, reduced intake of foods having high energy density and reductions in physical inactivity. Future weight loss studies need to determine the type, intensity, and duration of exercise that will produce acceptable adherence and consequent long term weight loss, and to ascertain the reinforcing factors that determine youth behaviour choice.
Weight gain prevention interventions for youth are clearly in their infancy. This review describes 3 completed and 2 ongoing weight gain prevention trials. One study showed reductions in the prevalence of obesity among junior high school girls, but not among boys. Another study among elementary school students showed significant mean decreases in body mass index in boys and girls following an intervention specifically to reduce time spent viewing television. Whether these studies altered food intake or increased physical activity remains unclear.
A combination of weight loss treatment and weight gain prevention strategies employed in parallel is likely to yield the greatest benefits. Development and testing of novel intervention strategies, using innovative behavioural approaches to increase the likelihood that children will adopt healthy dietary, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour patterns, holds great promise to significantly reduce the epidemic of obesity.
KeywordsObesity Sedentary Behaviour Obese Child Vigorous Physical Activity Physical Activity Behaviour
We sincerely thank Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H. for providing us with in press references, and Deborah A. Galuska, M.P.H., Ph.D. for her helpful comments on a later draft of the manuscript.
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