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A New Perspective on Exercise for Overweight and Obese Kids

Authors of a editorial published in the journal “Psychology and Health” argue that parents, educators, and healthcare professionals should consider taking a different approach to the ever growing issue of childhood obesity.

In their compelling paper, an international team of scientists argue that we should shift our focus from weight loss and increased physical activity to a concentration on resistance training.  The authors site research that suggests that current physical activity recommendations are “making no difference” in the pursuit of weight loss.  Concomitantly, the present focus on physical activity via physical education classes, school recess, and planned exercise has had a negative side effect; because overweight youngsters struggle to excel at traditional “aerobic” forms of physical activity (including games, play, and structured exercise), they often develop a disdain for exercise.  The researchers observe, “Compared to normal weight youngsters, overweight youngsters are less capable of performing at a desired or comparable level in aerobic exercises. These negative experiences may result in disinterest and a loss of motivation, causing a vicious cycle: the loss of motivation causes inpiduals to disengage from physical activity. This lack of physical activity causes an increase in weight, which in turn may result in even lower levels of physical activity.”

The authors site emerging research in the filed of psychology that suggests that engaging in resistance training has the opposite effect.  Because overweight kids are strong relative to their peers, they enjoy success with resistance training and thus they experience increased self efficacy and intrinsic motivation around exercise.  The authors make a though-provoking conclusion stating,

When it comes to overweight and obese youngsters, based on the currently available evidence, we suggest to stop emphasizing their overweight, stop pushing them for weight loss, and to start focusing more on resistance exercises. In our view, it is time to start concentrating on their biological strengths and using psychological principles and techniques to make youngsters aware of these strengths. Only then long-term behavior changes and long-term health benefits may be achieved. To make overweight and obese youngsters healthier, stronger, more confident (and feeling better in general), resistance exercise may be the fruitful way to go.”

Discover Strength now offers Pre-adolecent strength training sessions. These sessions are 1-on-1, 15 minutes in length with high supervision. To schedule a free introductory workout for your child, email Hannah@discoverstrength.com

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