Sleep and its Benefits

If you haven’t already read “Lights Out” by T.S. Wiley and Bent Fromby, then I urge you to do so, as it very good at critically reviewing and analysing why sleep is so important and especially in regard to obesity and other mortality risk factors.

Many people do not know or perhaps recognise the importance of getting enough sleep. Parents are generally good at giving their kids, up until they are teenagers, a certain bedtime but from the teenage years it usually starts going down- hill.

Sleep has a major impact on our lives in more than one aspect. Sleep can increase our energy, improve our memory, decrease our risk of obesity by reducing our appetite, stabilising our hormones, and improving our performance.

Yet, we still seem to forget the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and instead we end up with late nights infront of the television and/or the computer (and yes, I’m a sinner of that as well)

Feast – Famine

In evolutionary times people used to sleep in caves and therefore adapted their sleeping patterns and food intake to fit in with their habitat, meaning; wake up at sunrise to go hunting, and go to sleep at sunset owing to the lack of light and dangers. In addition, due to the lack of food there was available during the winter (famine) the body would need to eat lots of food (carbohydrate feast) in the summer in order to build up the fat storage for the winter where the body would not get the required energy from food.

Our bodies have therefore become conditioned and still want to protect us from famine. However, the majority of people in especially the Western World do not experience famine anymore, but on the contrary act as if it was a never ending feast. In addition we now have artificial lighting, which means that we do not sleep according to the sunlight/time of the year, but instead when it is convenient to us. Also, we don’t have to go hunting for our food anymore and with the increase in technology we don’t actually need to move around much at all. This therefore results in a decrease in energy expenditure which again can lead to overweight/obesity and other lifestyle diseases. Last but not least, we also have an abundance of processed and high carb/sugar foods available 24/7 which also doesn’t benefit our sleep, waist line and overall health.

Problems:

-          Carbohydrate cravings as a result of the “perennial adaptation” also known as a constant intent to hibernate = obesity.

-          A hormonal imbalance between serotonin and melatonin levels = poor sleep = low melatonin levels = obesity.

-          Lights on/ lack of sleep/ stress / high cortisol = endothelia cell death = heart disease

 

How much sleep do we need?

Factors such as age, time of the year, lifestyle and health all come in to play when talking about the amount of sleep we need. However, on average most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but some people might require more. Especially children that are still growing typically require 9+ hours due to the body being under constant stress.

Is there a connection between sleep and nutrition?

Yes, absolutely. Research suggests that sleep and nutrition do affect each other and that particular magnesium is important for sleep due to it being a mineral that relaxes the muscles and calms the nerves down. This will in turn help people fall asleep, so if you have problems sleeping, try eating foods high in magnesium for dinner.

Also, another way that nutrition and sleep can affect each other is in some instances overeating, which can lead to obesity and in turn lead to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterised by abnormal pauses in breathing which typically results in daytime fatigue, a slower reaction time, and vision problems.

In addition, research has found that when we sleep poorly, we feel hungrier and tend to eat more. Therefore, getting good sleep will reduce our appetite and increase our energy.

5 ways to improve your sleep:

-          Perform regular physical activity, but avoid intense work outs within 3-4 hours of your bedtime

-          Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake as these substances are known to disrupt our sleep

-          Set a fixed time for going to bed and waking up each day

-          Sleep in a quiet, dark and cool bedroom

-          Avoid spending time in the bedroom for other purposes than sleep

Sleep well and stay healthy

Anna

Posted in Adolescent obesity, body transformation, carbohydrate, childhood obesity, health, life transformation, Nutrition, Obesity, Sleep | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Healthy Eating

I have recently discussed low-fat diets vs. low-carbohydrate diets, the paleo diet, physical activity, the UK healthy eating guidelines and nevertheless juicing.

But what I haven’t really discussed is the benefits of healthy eating.

Therefore, I will in this blog attempt to explain some of the key elements of healthy eating and why it is so important. However, before that let’s clarify what I mean by health and healthy eating.

WHO’s definition of health is: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

The medical dictionary’s definition of a healthy diet is:

“• High consumption of fruits & vegetables

• Low consumption of red meat & fatty foods*

• Raw foods & whole grains are preferred to processed or refined foods

• Protein primarily from fish, dairy products, nuts

• Consumption of salt, pepper, sugar, coffee & other caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, is discouraged”

 *I personally do not agree with this point of consuming low amounts of red meat and fatty foods, but you will know why if you have read my other blog posts.

 

Benefits of healthy eatingImage

Not only does eating healthily help you maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage, but it also provides your body with the right energy and nutrients in order to function optimally.

  • High consumption of fruits and vegetables:

Fruits and vegetables contain a high number of essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are crucial to your health, but they also provide you with a number of other health benefits such as:

-          Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

-          Help decrease bone loss

-          Reduced risk of coronary artery disease

-          Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke

-          Protect against a number of cancers such as stomach and colon-rectum cancer

• Low consumption of red meat & fatty foods* 

As I said, I do not agree with this statement. On the other hand, I believe that red meat is good for us. If it is not, why did our ancestors mainly eat red meat and still survive? I can’t seem to find any evidence that red meat causes any problems for most people.

Also, animal protein is a great source of protein and it nevertheless contains B-12 which is an essential nutrient for our brain and nervous system.

• Raw foods & whole grains are preferred to processed or refined foods 

Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. More and more of our foods are now processed and the shelf life of most products is incredible. But this isn’t a good thing. The longer a food’s shelf life, the more chemicals and processed the foods are.

Almost everything is healthy in moderation and this applies to grains as well, with whole grains being preferred. They provide essential nutrients such as dietary fibre, minerals and B vitamins, and furthermore help reduce the risk of developing certain chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease. In addition, they can help with:

-          Constipation

-          Weight-management

• Protein primarily from fish, dairy products, nuts 

As mentioned earlier, protein is vital to your health as it is required by the body for growth, repair and maintenance. Therefore, especially for children, teens and young adults that are still growing, protein is essential as too little protein can lead to poor mental development and stunted growth. In addition, if not consuming enough protein in your diet it can cause skin problems, and furthermore give you a dull and unhealthy appearance which to some extent can be due to a lack of iron which can also result in fatigue.

• Consumption of salt, pepper, sugar, coffee & other caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, is discouraged”

Unfortunately, way too many people’s daily diet consists of high amounts of sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol. This is mainly due to the vast amount of junk-foods, processed and pre-packaged meals that are readily available EVERYWHERE. It is almost too easy to say no and to not make an effort to eat healthily. Also, the price difference between a healthy and an unhealthy meal is ridiculous, so for some people it is not only due to the convenience, but also due to financial reasons and to some extent also a lack of education.

However, the benefits of staying away from or avoiding these ingredients are many:

-          Improved blood sugar and a reduced risk of getting type 2 diabetes

-          Improved sleep

-          Healthier weight and body fat percentage

-          Reduced risk of hypertension, stroke and cardiovascular disease

-          Reduced risk of fatty or faulty liver

And the list goes on…

I hope you can see the benefits of actually making an effort and being health conscious. It is not just about being physically active, but just as important if not more important to have a healthy and well-balanced diet in order to live a healthy and happy life.

So choose your food with care and make healthy choices

Be well

Anna

Posted in Adolescent obesity, body transformation, childhood obesity, diets, Global Future Fit, health, healthy eating, Low carbohydrate diets, low fat diets, Nutrition, Obesity, weight-loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All about juicing

Juicing has become increasingly popular and we love green juice and tasty smoothies. This way we also eat greater amounts of vegetables and fruits when we consume these healthy foods in a fluid substance.

With juice and smoothies we can maximise our daily intake of raw and unspoiled vegetables and fruits that we of one or more reasons do not usually eat, although we know it is healthy for us. Even kids like fruits and vegetables when it has been juiced, so it is a great way of getting your child to consume their fruits and vegetables. However, there are a couple of things to watch out for and be conscious of.

It is recommended that we eat fruits and vegetables every day in order to have a well-balanced and healthy diet full of nutrients and antioxidants. However, make sure that you consume more vegetables than fruits as they contain more nutrients and more importantly also less sugar due to the fructose in the fruits. Especially, if you want to lose weight you should be conscious about your fruit intake as it may stall your weight-loss due to the high amounts of fructose and calories.

Why is juicing healthy?

Juicing fruits and vegetables provides us with an instant and vast amount of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. All these nutrients work together to strengthen our immune system. This means that not only can they protect us from a typical cough and cold, but also more severe illnesses. Juice is a particularly good source of antioxidants and vitamins such as A, C and E-vitamin.

Why we still need to eat vegetables

Due bear in mind that we cannot completely substitute juicing to eating vegetables in their natural form and shape as it does not give the same benefits to our overall health. When juicing vegetables a lot of the fibre is lost. This is due to the fact that the majority of the fibre is in the skin and the pulp which is deliberately being left out. Fibre slows down our digestion and helps us feel full and this is therefore lost when juicing. 

In addition, the rate of your digestion and our satisfaction after eating are just as important to our overall health as the nutrients we consume. So while juicing can add to our overall nutrient intake, it cannot replace our daily vegetable consumption or even a normal diet. Juices consist of very little or no fat and protein and depending on which fruits and vegetables we juice, we will be lacking in certain essential nutrients if we do not consume a regular diet as well.

A few tips on juicing:

  • Vegetables should be the focus – but do include some fruit. Adding an apple can have a huge impact on the taste and make the juice a bit sweeter.
  • To add additional flavour and antioxidants include 1-2 root vegetables, such as beets or carrots.
  • Include at least one leafy green vegetable such as broccoli or cabbage.
  • Add one watery vegetable such as celery or cucumber. Not only does this add additional vitamins, but it also makes the juice more drinkable.
  • Add a garnish. Just a small amount of a strong flavoured item such as ginger, lemon, mint or other herb can make your juice a real pleasure to drink while adding highly concentrated antioxidants.
  • Consider adding back a few scoops of the fibre that is filtered out by the juicer or even some protein powder to add more filling.

All in all, as with anything else moderation is the key. Do not replace your normal diet with a juice-only diet as juicing should not be replacing proper meals. Although you might lose weight by doing so it is not a healthy way of doing it, and more importantly it is not a sustainable way of maintaining the weight-loss.

So, enjoy the occasional juice but avoid juice fasting or any other crash diets.

Keep healthy

Anna

 

 

 

Posted in childhood obesity, diets, health, healthy eating, juicing, Nutrition, Obesity, weight-loss | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Weight- loss is more than just a body transformation!

The importance of losing weight is not just the body transformation that occurs, but nevertheless the life transformation. What I mean by life transformation is the by product of losing weight and maintaining it, i.e. an increased self-esteem, no more bullying due to being overweight/obese, no more public embarrassment, regaining a normal life, reducing or eliminating disease symptoms and being able to do things more easily, and without having to make special arrangements. All in all, a happier and a more fulfilling life!

Therefore, we at Global Future Fit emphasise the importance of education in order to gain the necessary knowledge and tools to live a happy and healthy life, forever. We do not believe in fad diets or quick-fix exercise programmes as they have been proven not to last. They might give an individual short –term benefits, but will not provide sustainability.

In addition, we at Global Future Fit differentiate ourselves from other weight-loss and weight-management programmes by not making our students count calories, keep food journals or engage in any other obsessive behaviour. On the contrary, we make it a fun and educational experience to lose weight which we believe is the way forward in getting children and young people to engage in weight-loss, and more importantly behaviour change.

We do not necessarily want our students to lose a lot of weight while at camp, but what we essentially are all about is educating them on healthy living. This means that the students can make informed choices about their life and thereby sustain a healthy lifestyle when they return home. Therefore, we also provide an aftercare programme where we keep in contact with the students, motivate and support them in their everyday life.

There is desperate need to start treating and preventing childhood obesity due to its life threatening co-morbidities and enormous health-care costs, so help us help you. Let us together develop a healthier future for our children, teens and young adults.

They are our future!

Enjoy your weekend and keep healthy

Anna

Posted in Adolescent obesity, body transformation, childhood obesity, diets, Global Future Fit, health, healthy eating, life transformation, Nutrition, Obesity, physical activity, weight-loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is going to take the responsibilty?

Childhood obesity has never been a more widely debated topic, yet the Government, the NHS and even parents are being negligent about this serious matter.

The Guardian wrote an article on February 18th 2013 discussing the massive cut backs that the childhood obesity programmes are facing: “More than half the obesity specialists advising the trusts were either made redundant or quit after the government announced public health funding would be transferred to local authorities this April.” This therefore does not give much hope to the future for our children and especially with the ever increasing rates of childhood obesity.

Who is going to take the responsibility?

-Is it the government for giving wrong health messages and not providing the right resources and funding to help combat this issue?

- Is it the big junk food companies for getting children and everyone else addicted to their products, and nevertheless using persuasive marketing tools against children?

- Is it the schools for not teaching the children about healthy eating and not providing enjoyable PE sessions for everyone to enjoy being physical active?

- Is it the parents for not being good role models and letting their children eat unhealthily and not participate in regular physical activity

- Is it a combination of all or just some of these things?

In any case, with the yearly publication of the National Child Measurement Programme we are now being made even more aware of these drastic increases. Also, parents are now notified if and when their child is overweight which for many comes as a shock when they receive the letter. Some parents also become very offended, take it as personal criticism and bad parenting, but this should not be the case. Everyone needs help and a little bit of advice now and then. Especially with the poor and mixed messages about what healthy eating is. It is not easy for people to know what is right and what is wrong!

With regard to the measurement tool used for measuring the children on the National Child Measurement Programme, I’m not trying to say that the method used is perfect as it far from being perfect. The measurement used is body mass index (BMI) which only is based on a child’s height and weight. Therefore, it is possible that there are a few children in between who have been classed as overweight who in reality aren’t due to big bones, muscles, delayed growth spurt etc. but let’s face it. It is the minority, and childhood obesity is a reality that we all need to wake up to and need to start dealing with.

Keep smiling

Anna

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Are the UK healthy eating guidelines correct?

When looking at what celebrities such as Gweneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Renee Zellweger among others advocate, it isn’t what the UK or even for that matter the US healthy eating guidelines promote.

The UK healthy eating guidelines are based on decades of old myths of fat and specifically saturated fat being the devil and causing obesity and coronary heart disease. Although, no “real” research, meaning no randomised controlled trials, have ever been able to establish this association between fat and obesity and fat and coronary heart disease. Therefore, it is dubious why these guidelines have not yet been changed and rely on more evidence based research.

In addition, low-fat products are generally not healthier than the original products as they typically contain the same or even a higher amount of calories, and high amounts of added sugar or salt.

Also, research and a host of anecdotal evidence have found that there is a link between carbohydrates/ sugar and obesity. Hence, why celebrities among others are avoiding carbohydrates, sugar and pre-packaged foods, and instead consume plenty of protein, vegetables and fat in order to keep healthy and stay in shape.

Even the now world famous diet, The Dukan Diet, is all about high protein and low carbohydrate intake, and yes, people are losing weight!

So perhaps the UK government should consider changing the healthy eating guidelines in order to be in line with what the newest research is suggesting, which is low carbohydrate, moderate fat and high protein.

What is your opinion on this.. do you think the UK guidelines are correct or do you think they need to be changed? Please comment below.

Stay healthy

Anna

Posted in carbohydrate, celebrities, diets, health, healthy eating, Low carbohydrate diets, low fat diets, Nutrition, Obesity, UK healthy eaiting guidelines | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Camps – 6 reasons to send your child to one

The concept of summer camps is widely used and acknowledged in the US and in many parts of Europe whereas it is still not that common for parents here in the UK to send their children to one. The majority of summer camps in the US are activity camps, either day camps or residential, and many have different areas of speciality for different age groups, genders, interests, religions, academic/non-academic etc.

In the UK there are a lot of summer camps as well, but they mainly cater for foreign students as the majority of them are language schools/camps where children and teens go to learn English, and to explore a new country and culture. However, in recent years more summer camps for UK children and teens have started developing as well and the market is slowly increasing.

I absolutely love the idea of summer camps and I think it offers many benefits for both the parents as well as for the children.

Here is my list of benefits:

1: Independence

I think that the first and foremost benefit for both the child and the parents is the increased independence that the child will achieve from being away from home. This is due to the child having to adapt to a new environment, a new set of rules and perhaps doing things that they have not been used to at home (e.g. washing their own clothes, waking up in the morning, deciding when and if to shower, getting dressed appropriately for the day/evening/activity, making their own bed, tidying their room etc.)

2: Aquire new skills

At a summer camp there will be a lot of new activities, challenges and things that the child may never have tried before, and therefore the child will learn new skills and perhaps even develop new interests and hobbies. The skills can either be physical, mental or people skills. Furthermore, this is a great way to understand and explore one’s strengths/weaknesses and likes/dislikes for further use and knowledge in the future.

3: New friendships

Many of the kids who go to a summer camp will not know anyone else going, which may be a challenge for the child depending on how shy/outgoing he or she is and how good and fast he or she is at making new friends. However, due to the majority of children being in the same situation and camps offering a vast variety of activities, games etc. there will be no time before everyone is talking, having fun and having made friends for life.

4:Broaden your horizon

Another great thing about summer camps is that the children generally will be coming from a variety of different countries, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. This therefore means that the children will be exposed to a range of different people from not only around the country, but perhaps from around the world.

5: New experiences

All the above mentioned benefits will be a part of the new, challenging and exciting experiences that each of the children will be experiencing while at a summer camp. The first time a child is away from home in a new and unknown place with people that he or she does not know, will be a huge shock and perhaps a bit scary experience for most children. However, as pointed out in benefit number 1 (independence), the child will benefit from not only becoming more independent, but also a stronger and more confident person.

6: Increased confidence

This very much goes hand in hand with all of the above mentioned benefits as a child’s confidence will increase from being more independent, developing new skills, making new friends, meeting new people from around the world and furthermore being exposed to a host of new experiences.

Therefore, I think EVERY child should have the opportunity to go to at least one summer camp while they are children or teenagers as it will not only enhance their way of thinking, but also the way they deal with certain situations and people.

So, do yourself and your child the favour to go and explore the internet, magazines, newspapers, ask friends/family and find one that you both find suitable. And GO for it! Trust me, none of you will look back with regret although it might be hard for you both in the beginning (especially as the mom)!

Be well and have fun

Anna

Posted in Global Future Fit, Summer camps | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Globalisation and Childhood Obesity

Having just returned to the UK after having spent a week in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a week in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovenia, it has once again opened my eyes to the huge contrast between the way of living in different countries.

I was pleasantly surprised by how active and healthy the people from especially Crotia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovenia seemed to be. While I was there I did not notice many overweight and/ or obese people and it seemed as if the locals used public transport and/or walked a lot more than in many other countries. Especially compared to the UAE where the majority of people own their own car and drive EVERYWHERE.

Another observation I made was the limited number of fast food chains and stores that I came across in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovenia, again in comparation to the UAE and even the UK. I only saw TWO McDonalds, no Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken (of course there probably are more, but compared to the UAE where there are hundreds of fast food chains/stores all over the place, they were either surprisingly well hidden or very few of them in these three countries). In addition, there were also very few fast food banners and advertising on the streets in the three previously mentioned countries.

As a health professional and being the out-going and curious person that I am, I’m always very interested to hear about the lifestyle in the different countries that I visit. Therefore, when I travel I usually make contact to some of the locals to see and hear how they live.

People in Croatia were friendly, open-minded and generally spoke very good English, so it was fairly easy for me to get in contact with people. I spoke to quite a few people in shops, on the street and in restaurants, and I ended up having some very nice and interesting conversations about health, food and life in general. Also, in Bosnia-Herzegovenia I tried talking to people. However, it was a bit harder for me as not many people spoke English or at least very good English. But I still managed to find two very nice and friendly people who I had some interesting conversations with. Surprisingly, it was very similar things the people from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovenia told me when I asked them about food/fast food and eating out. They all mentioned that going out to eat only happens on rare occassions and that people generally cook their own food at home. I was so happy when I heard this as this is how I grew up and how I believe it should be. When I was a child we only went to McDonalds on special occassions, such as birthdays and we were only allowed candy on weekends. However, this has in the majority of homes and countries changed, and now fast food, candy, ice cream, soda etc. is an everyday food and no longer a treat.

However, the people that I spoke to did mention that the younger generation has started to change and fast food is becoming increasingly more popular. Therefore, a prevalence in adolescent obesity has been witnessed within the last decade (very sad news).This change is not only due to economic growth but also the advances in technology and the impact of the media which all form part of the increasing globalisation.

Just look at the UAE. There is an unbelieveable amount of wealth in this country, but on the contrary they are facing a huge crisis in the number of children who are overweight and / or obese as it is suggested that a third of the children in the UAE are either overweight and / or obese. In addition, they rank the second highest in the world for the prevalence of diabetes. So much for being a wealthy nation!

Obesity is generally a sensitive topic and especially when discussing childhood obesity as parents either tend to not want to admit that their child is overweight or obese or they basically cannot see it. However, in the UAE one is perceived as “healthy” when he or she is overweight which therefore makes it difficult to change public perception of what constitutes to being a healthy weight and what overweight or obesity is. Campaigns and strategies have started to be implemented to combat childhood obesity and put more awareness on the rising importance of nutrition and physical activity, but there is still a long way to go.

Childhood obesity is increasing in large parts of the world and has become part of the globalisation. We therefore need to stop, think and act on this before it gets out of hand, as obesity often is related to other co-morbidites such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease etc. which can not only decrease one’s happiness but more importantly one’s life expectancy.

Think, stop and act today and forever!

Anna

Posted in Adolescent obesity, Global Future Fit, health, Nutrition, Obesity, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

An Overview of Adolescent Obesity

For generations, people from around the world were struggling with food scarcity due to poverty and diseases associated with this problem. However, with the onset of the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th century it became clear that in order to gain economic development and increase productivity, there had to be a shift in the population’s body mass index (BMI), going from being underweight to normal weight. Therefore, a new approach of adding sugar and fat to one’s usual diet began, which resulted in a progressive increase in both height and weight, predominantly during the 19th century. From this point forward, the obesity epidemic has seen a general increase in both overweight and obesity among adolescents in the last three decades. This has happened alongside the advances in technology and the changes in foods and its availability. Not only has a large proportion of the world’s population now become car dependent, which means that adolescents therefore are no longer walking or cycling to and from school, but is being taken by car; but food high in sugar and fat has also become cheaper and the portions have become bigger.  This has enabled adolescents to become more sedentary and eat more energy dense foods which therefore contribute to the high prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Thus, the prevalence of adolescent obesity is rapidly increasing and is not limited to a single continent, but has become a global epidemic. It has reached the level where worldwide policy makers, schools, parents, and the adolescents themselves have become worried. This worry is not only related to being overweight or obese, but also about the plethora of associated co-morbidities and nevertheless the health costs connected to this epidemic. Yet, because adolescence is not only characterised by physical changes, but also by the development of individuals’ self-regulatory skills due to becoming more autonomous this can have a strong impact on their health behaviours. Hence, it is a critical time to address the issue of overweight and obesity as research suggests that the health behaviours developed in adolescence are likely to persist into adulthood.

In addition, obesity in general is suggested to cause serious health issues which can impact virtually every organ in the body. These health issues often have severe consequences; thus, result in increased morbidities and mortality rates.  Consequently, an increased likelihood of adult mortality from a broad range of systemic diseases is prevalent when adolescents between the ages 14-19 are either overweight or obese. Also, diseases such as diabetes type 2, hypertension and dyslipedidemia are well known among children and adolescents who are either overweight and/ or obese. Additionally, other complications for instance obstructive sleep apnea, nutritional deficiencies such as low vitamin D levels and insufficient iron intake, musculoskeletal problems and furthermore psychological distress such as depression are also extremely common in overweight and obese individuals. It is also suggested that nearly half of the adolescents who are considered obese, BMI ≥97th percentile have one or more conditions that constitutes metabolic syndrome.

According to the Health Survey for England, 2010 a whole 33.8% of all children aged 11-15 years are classified as either overweight or obese which is shocking. In addition, the Foresight report from 2007 has made projections about the obesity prevalence in the UK in 2050, which predicts that 26% of both females and males under the age of 20 years will be obese which means that 52% of all children and adolescents up to the age of 20 years will be obese.

However, the terms overweight and obesity can be ambiguous, in particular when classifying a child/adolescent to be either or, as different countries, organisations and journal articles have different definitions of both of the terms. Having different terminology can impact the reliability of the statistics of childhood obesity and in other words can make it more difficult to compare and contrast data. Also, the most widely used method for determining both individual and population fatness is BMI and although it has been around for a long time, it has only recently been developed to use on children and adolescents. Yet, it is questionable whether it is the most appropriate indicator of childhood and adolescence overweight and obesity as it does not give a direct measure of lean mass vs. fat mass nor does it give an indication of the distribution of the fat. Also, because children and adolescents have growth spurts at different times, the BMI developmental curve does not fit every child and adolescent. For these reasons, BMI may show that a child is overweight according to their age and gender, but due to individuality in how children and adolescents grow and how much lean body mass they have, it can be difficult and unreliable to determine from a BMI score. Consequently, results should be interpreted with caution and if possible measurements such as waist circumference and skinfolds could help identify and understand variations in BMI. However, due to often having limited time and/ or resources BMI is typically used and seen as a “reliable” measure.

In essence, it is important to note that childhood/adolescent obesity is increasing, but at the same time we have to remain sceptical about the ways of measuring overweight and obesity.

Just be aware of your child’s/adolescent’s growth, maturation stages and overall health!

Stay healthy and keep smiling

Anna

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Physical activity guidelines

As mentioned in my previous blog, the earliest epidemiological evidence of physical inactivity being a health problem was established in the 1950’s by Jeremy Morris. However, it was not until 1978 that the first public physical activity guidelines were written and published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).  These guidelines highlighted that the key to developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition was vigorous intensity physical activity 3-5 days per week for 15-60 min per day.

Conversely, when taking a closer look at the studies that these recommendations were based on, it appears that the studies’ methodologies to some degree were flawed because of their selection of participants and small sample sizes. The majority of the studies on physical activity up until 1978, when the ACSM recommendations were published, used mainly young male college students and small sample sizes of approximately 20 students. Therefore, this leads one to question the results from these studies as they perhaps may not have been representative of the general population. Also, this recommendation of vigorous intensity physical activity could possibly have been a result of the usage of young and fit males who would likely be expected to need a higher intensity workload to increase their cardiorespiratory fitness than for example middle-aged or older adults. In addition, these guidelines were based on exercise training for enhancing one’s cardiorespiratory fitness. Therefore, not necessarily suitable for the general public who may only want and need guidelines for physical activity in order to maintain good health.

Consequently, the ACSM guidelines were amended in 1990. The new guidelines made a point to say that the 1978 guidelines might have been wrong about the intensity they recommended and moreover made an obvious distinction between physical activity for fitness and physical activity for health: “It is now clear that lower levels of physical activity than recommended by this position statement may reduce the risk for certain chronic degenerative diseases and yet may not be of sufficient quantity or quality to improve o2max. ACSM recognizes the potential health benefits of regular exercise performed more frequently and for a longer duration, but at lower intensities than prescribed in this position statement”.

Therefore, from the ACSM (1990) guidelines and up until now, the intensity has been lowered to 50% of maximum heart rate reserve (MHRR) and to even as low as 40% of MHRR for people with low activity/ fitness levels. This may have been a result of different factors such as research showing that people are more likely to do physical activity if it consists of low to moderate intensity rather than vigorous intensity.

Also, from the ACSM (1990) guidelines another stimulus was amended. The starting duration for physical activity was increased by 5 min to compensate for the reduction in intensity. ACSM (1990): “improvement will be similar for activities performed at a lower intensity-longer duration compared to higher intensity-shorter duration if the total energy costs of the activities are equal.”

Already by 1995/1996 the physical activity guidelines were amended again, but this time not by the ACSM, but by the U.S. Government. These had taken new research into consideration. Therefore, instead of only recommending physical activity 3-5 days per week it was now most or preferably all days per week with a minimum of 30 min per day. In addition, it was highlighted that these 30 min of physical activity per day could be split into intermittent bouts of ≥8-10 min. However, not much research has been done on less than 8-10 min and therefore it is plausible that even shorter amounts of physical activity create health benefits. Although, Dr. Michael Mosley in his “Truth about Exercise” does suggest that exercising for only 3 minutes per day can possibly increase one’s aerobic fitness.

Nonetheless, these overall amendments can be seen in the light of a general change in the physical activity guidelines. The ACSM guidelines from 1978 and 1990 were seen as being too specific and perhaps more geared towards exercise training which consequently may have made people think that if they could not keep up with those guidelines there would be of no or limited benefit. Therefore, the guidelines have progressively changed from being individual and specific to being more societal, lifestyle and health oriented. This change has also resulted in an increase in health promotion interventions addressing the need for people to become more physically active, not only for their own benefit, but nevertheless to reduce the costs that physical inactivity both directly and indirectly causes.

Yet, it was not until the physical guidelines, “At least five-a-week” that it was made apparent what exactly was meant by the terms moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity. Until then there was no clear definitions and examples of the types of intensity in the guidelines which therefore can have made it more difficult for the general public to understand the guidelines and people may even have misinterpreted them.

Additionally, there has been no real consensus in the guidelines of whether or not to include flexibility. This might be due to the fact that flexibility is difficult to assess and therefore evidence shows contradictory results of whether stretching is beneficial for health and decreases risks of injury in the general public. The majority of the research is performed on athletes and therefore in sports performance settings which may not be representative of the general population.

Another evident matter that needs to be addressed when discussing physical activity guidelines and their evolution is that studies that have been the underlying evidence for the guidelines and furthermore the ACSM guidelines have used the words “physical activity”, “exercise” and “physical fitness” interchangeably. This can therefore cause possible misunderstandings as to whether physical activity has different or other health benefits than physical fitness. Thus, there are still many questions to be answered about the frequency, intensity, durations and type of exercise/ physical activity the general population should be doing on a daily/ weekly basis in order to remain healthy.

Thanks for reading.

Anna

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