Interacting with puppets named Miss Grain or Mr. Fat, or pretending to be zoo animals, young children enrolled in a recent study got a true head start on healthy eating and exercise, researchers report.
The study of approximately 400 minority children in 12 Head Start programs in Chicago found those who participated in a 14-week, intensive program aimed at improving eating and exercise habits were better able to grow while keeping obesity at bay than children who didn’t participate in the program.
“We were successful in taking the children off their trajectory toward overweight,” said Melinda R. Stolley, co-author of the study, in the May issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.
While children between the ages of 2 and 5 across all ethnic groups have approximately the same rates of overweight, these statistics change as the children age, so that by the time they are ageds 6 to 10, black children are nearly twice as likely to be overweight as non-Hispanic white children, the authors said.
And once overweight has set in, the risk of remaining overweight into adulthood is much higher, Stolley added, which is why she and her colleagues were pleased with the outcome of their study.
“We showed that you can indeed intervene at this age to change behavior of children over the long term,” she said.
For the program, called “Hip-Hop to Health Jr.,” researchers had specially trained teachers introduce concepts about healthy eating and aerobic exercise to nearly 200 4-year-olds. The 20-minute lessons were conducted three times a week in the classroom. A “control” group of another 200 4-year-olds received classes focused on dental hygiene, seat belt safety and other issues.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 May 2005
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
, . (2005). Helping Kids Stay Fit. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2005/05/12/helping-kids-stay-fit/