By Laurie Martin, Sc.D., M.P.H. and Alyssa Milot, B.A., ChildTrends Research-to-Results Brief, Publication #2007-06, March, 2007
A Guide for Out-of-School Time Program Practitioners
Information for program practitioners on diet, exercise, body image and weight status of youth and ways to measure these outcomes, from Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at all stages of development.
This brief discusses diet, exercise, body image, and weight and also provides information for practitioners on how to measure these factors among youth in their program. Most adolescents do not eat the recommended amount of fruit (one and a half cups) and vegetables (two and a half cups) per day,1,2 and about one-third fail to meet the current recommendations of three or more sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week.3 Inexpensive fast food, the availability of foods high in sugar, salt, and fat in both school and at home, unsafe neighborhoods where youth are not free to go outside and play, and an increasing amount of time spent watching television or playing video games have contributed to the overweight status of many children and adolescents. Regardless of their actual weight, some adolescents, and in particular female adolescents, have an intense desire to be thin, leading in some cases to an eating disorder. Since both unhealthy weight loss and unhealthy weight gain are problems among today’s adolescents, it is important to be aware of and sensitive to both sides of the issue when working with young people.