Encouraging Healthy Choices May Require a Different Approach

There’s more than one way to encourage teens to adopt a healthier lifestyle. 

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Growth spurts are a welcome part of adolescence, but lately, more teens are growing wider, instead of taller. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the teen obesity rate is more than four times the size it was 30 years ago, with one in every five teens now considered obese. In an attempt to reverse this trend, consider this important question: Are all the right people making all the right moves?

School officials aren’t just sitting back and relaxing as their students’ waistlines expand; they’re administering screenings, revamping cafeteria menus, and adjusting physical education curricula. But some of their efforts may be in vain, suggests a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

When study author Kevin Gee, of the University of California, compared weight, exercise level, and dietary habits among high school students who did and did not receive weight screenings in school, he found no significant differences in students’ weights.

The research pointed only to general trends between the two groups over a two-year span: a decrease in the percentage of obese teens, an increase in the percentage of overweight teens, and a lack of consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Since it takes much more than a quick BMI reading to make a change for the better, Gee advocates for a more whole approach, recommending that “communities, parent groups, youth groups, churches, hospitals, etc. work in tandem,” with school efforts. That's a message we can get behind.

Looking for more ways to encourage your teen to pursue a healthier lifestyle? Try these suggestions for inspiration:

Share this story of a teen who turned his life around with the help of a dedicated teacher.

• Use this five-move fitness routine to incorporate exercise into your teen’s daily schedule.

Don’t forget about nutrition! Here are the 10 foods that all teens should be eating.

Another great resource? Health teacher and blogger Amy Lauren Smith's article about tackling the social and emotional roots of obesity. It's a must-read for any health teacher!