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Your Child

Exercise: Reducing Depression - Behavioral Problems in Kids

2:00

Two new studies examined whether kids that have serious behavioral disorders or who may be at a higher risk for depression might benefit from exercise. The results showed positive outcomes for both sets of children participating in the studies.

For one study, researchers focused on children and teenagers with conditions that included autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression.

They looked at whether structured exercise during the school day -- in the form of stationary "cybercycles" -- could help ease students' behavioral issues in the classroom. Cybercycles are stationary bikes equipped with virtual reality exercising games.

Over a period of seven weeks, the study found it did. Kids were about one-third to 50 percent less likely to act out in class, compared to a seven-week period when they took standard gym classes.

Lead researcher, April Bowling, said the results were meaningful.

"On days that the students biked, they were less likely to be taken out of the classroom for unacceptable behavior," said Bowling, who is now an assistant professor of health sciences at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.

"That's important for their learning, and for their relationships with their teachers and other kids in class," she said.

The study was done at a school that enrolls kids with behavioral health disorders, many of whom also have learning disabilities. Their usual gym classes focused mainly on skill building, with only short bursts of aerobic activity at most, according to the researchers.

For seven weeks, 103 students used the stationary bikes during their usual gym class -- twice a week, for 30 to 40 minutes. Their classroom behavior was tracked and compared with a seven-week period without the bikes, when they had gym class as usual.

Overall, the study found, the students were better able to control their behavior in the classroom during the stationary-bike trial.

Another recent study from Norway, adds more evidence to the benefits of exercise in children. Researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology measured activity levels in 800 six year olds who were asked about their exercise habits and any depressive symptoms. Follow ups were recorded at 8 and 10 years of age. Overall, children who exercised more, at a moderate to vigorous intensity, showed fewer depressive symptoms years later.

While the researchers noted that exercise alone isn’t a cure for depression, it has been shown to alleviate some depression symptoms.

“I think that physicians, parents and policy makers should facilitate physical activity among children,” says Tonje Zahl, the study’s lead author. “The focus should be on physical activity not just for the here and now benefits, such as improving blood pressure, heart rate and other physical benefits, but for the mental health benefits over the long term,” she says. All children should be targeted for this, she adds.

Experts say there are several theories as to why exercise may help kids control their behaviors. Bowling suggests that exercise may redirect the brain away from worrying.

Another theory is that exercise affects neurotransmitters -- chemical messengers in the brain that help regulate mood and behavior.

Bowling notes that it’s unfortunate that many schools are focusing so much on academics that they are cutting out gym and recess.

"If we really want our kids to do well, they need more movement during the school day, not less", she said

If children are unable to get the exercise they need at school, there’s always active playtime, walking and sports after school that can help provide some of the same benefits.

Both studies were published in the online journal, Pediatrics.

Story source: Amy Norton, http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20170109/exercise-an-antidote-for-behavioral-issues-in-students#1

Alice Park, http://time.com/4624768/exercise-depression-kids/

 

 

Daily Dose

Don't Let Your Child Become an Obesity Statistic

Healthy eating begins with the first foods that you feed your infant.An alarming statistic was released today which shows that one in five 4-year-old children are obese and these numbers are even higher in minority children. This study was just published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and followed over 8,000 children looking at height and weight. The findings were quite concerning, showing a trend toward obesity at an age younger than predicted, and numerous long term health problems associated with obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and bone and joint problems.

This is a national health issue and a call to action for all families to teach and model healthy eating. One of the problems is that many of the government sponsored food programs provide foods high in carbohydrates, and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, and this promotes obesity. School lunches have also been found to be high in fat and carbohydrate and continue to promote poor food choices. With the bad economy and recession, families have cut back on groceries and may be eating more fast foods, breads and pastas, again providing more carbohydrate than protein. Healthy eating begins with the first foods that you feed your infant. A well balanced diet with grains, fruits, vegetables and meats begins in the high chair and should continue at the family dinner table. The meals may be simple and healthy. Being a short order cook, or providing your child's favorite pizza and fried food on a daily basis, even in a young toddler will have deleterious effects for the rest of their life. Don't let your child become a statistic heading toward lifelong health issues secondary to childhood obesity. Change your own eating habits, improve your children's and remain committed to family meals. We, as parents, cannot afford to raise a generation where obesity is the norm: the change must begin now. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow. More Information: 1 in 5 Preschoolers Obese

Your Teen

Preventing ACL injuries in Young Athletes

2.00 to read

A new report states that young athletes are more susceptible to serious and potentially debilitating knee injuries. 

An increasing number of American children and teens are tearing up their knees, particularly kids who are involved in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball and gymnastics.  The most dangerous injury is a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which provides stability to the knee.

Specific types of training can reduce the risk of an ACL tear by as much as 72 percent, the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says.

"Neuromuscular training programs strengthen lower-extremity muscles, improve core stability and teach athletes how to avoid unsafe knee positions," lead author Dr. Cynthia LaBella, medical director and associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and a member of the academy's council on sports medicine and fitness, said in an academy news release.

The AAP recommends that coaches who run these types of sports programs should learn more about the exercises that can help athletes strengthen their muscles and encourage their athletes to use them.

The risk of ACL injury among young athletes increases at age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys. The largest numbers of ACL injuries occur in female athletes ages 15 to 20. After an ACL tear, girls are much more likely to have surgery and less likely to return to sports than boys, experts said.

"After puberty, girls have a 'machine motor mismatch,'" report co-author Timothy Hewett, professor and director of research at Ohio State University's sports medicine department, said in the news release. "In contrast, boys get even more powerful relative to their body size after their growth spurt. The good news is that we've shown that with neuromuscular training, we can boost the power of girls' neuromuscular engine, and reduce their risk of ACL injuries."

Before some of the newer less-invasive surgical treatments were available, surgery was often delayed until the child’s skeletal structure was fully mature. Now though, improved treatment can avoid impact to the developing growth plates, which means that they can have surgery to stabilize the knee.

Overall, ACL surgery is about 90 percent successful in restoring knee stability, according to the report published online April 28 and in the May print issue of Pediatrics.

"In many cases, surgery plus rehabilitation can safely return the athlete back to sports in about nine months," report co-author Dr. William Hennrikus, professor of pediatric orthopedic surgery at Penn State Hershey Bone and Joint Institute, said in the news release. "Parents who are considering surgery for their child should seek out a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with sports medicine training."

ACL tears can have long-lasting effects. People who suffer an ACL tear are up to 10 times more likely to develop early-onset degenerative knee osteoarthritis, which can lead to chronic pain and disability, the report said. "This is important, because it means athletes who suffer an ACL tear at age 13 are likely to face chronic pain in their 20s and 30s," LaBella said.

If your child participates in any of these sports, check with your child’s coach to see if they are providing the appropriate amount of muscle strengthening exercises to fortify your child’s knee support system.

If you feel they are not getting any or enough of these needed exercises, consider enrolling your child in a muscle strengthening exercise program or begin doing them together at home.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://www.philly.com/philly/health/topics/HealthDay687065_20140428_Training_Programs_Protect_Young_Athletes_From_ACL_Tears__Report.html#cPXEpJy1wK9xQl6s.99

Daily Dose

Track Your Family's Heart Health

1.00 to read

It is the end of Heart Health Month and I found a great way to help everyone with their healthy eating initiative.  Supertracker can help “plan, analyze and track” you and your family’s diet as well as physical activity.  Just go to www.choosemyplate.gov and click on SUPERTRACKER.   

As we all know, the desire to keep our families healthy is what all parents really want.  It is just sometimes overwhelming as to where to start and how to make simple changes.  This website has incorporated the original My Pyramid Tracker and My Pyramid Menu Planner as well, which were taken down in 2012. 

Go to the website and take a look at how user friendly it is!  The website has all sorts of information on nutrition as well as easy ideas for making simple changes in a recipe or ingredients to make it healthier.  This is not just about counting calories, but rather about portion control and little changes to a meal that may make a big difference. 

The site is interactive and can help parents decide what portions are age appropriate for their children based on age and activity level. Even a younger child can start to look at plates and get ideas about portion size. (Even healthy meals should have portion control). 

Since we just finished talking about healthy eating and exercise, thought this was the perfect ending or rather beginning to some lifestyle changes to keep all of us “heart healthy”.  Keep up the good work!

Your Child

Study: Exercise, Once Again, Improves Kid’s Learning Skills

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While the debate on whether to bring back recess to school curriculums continues across the U.S., a small study from the Netherlands once again shows that adding exercise to a child’s school day can improve their learning skills.

Researchers worked with 500 children in second and third grade, giving half of them traditional lessons while the rest received instruction supplemented with physical activity designed to reinforce math and language lessons.

The approach was a creative and unique way to helping children better comprehend math and spelling.  Instead of taking a recess break – exercise was actually incorporated into the lesson.

After two years, children who got the physically active lessons had significantly higher scores in math and spelling than their peers who didn't exercise during class.

"Previous research showed effects of recess and physical activity breaks," said lead study author Marijke Mullender-Wijnsma, of the University of Gronigen in The Netherlands.

"However, we think that the integration of physical activity into academic lessons will result in bigger effects on academic achievement," Mullender-Wijnsma added in an email to Reuters Heath.

Mullender-Wijnsma and colleagues developed a curriculum that matched typical lessons in academic subject matter but added physical activity as part of instruction. They tested it in 12 elementary schools.

Here’s how it worked.

Lessons involved constant practice and repetition reinforced by body movements. For example, children jumped in place eight times to solve the multiplication problem 2 x 4.

Children in the exercise group received 22 weeks of instruction three times a week during two school years. These lessons were up to 30 minutes long, and evenly split between math and spelling instruction.

During the first year of the study, there wasn’t a great deal of difference found between the students receiving exercise during the class and those that didn’t, when speed was the focus in the math tests.

However, after two years, children who received exercise-based instruction had significantly higher scores on the math speed exams than students who didn't. The difference over two years equated to more than four months of additional learning for the students who had physically active lessons.

When the focus was on lesson comprehension, students receiving exercise outperformed students who did not receive the exercise instruction in both the first and second year. Again, the progress amounted to about four more months of learning.

For spelling, there wasn't a significant difference between the student groups after one year. But by the end of the second year they did have significantly better test scores, once again, adding an additional four more months of learning.

For reading, there wasn’t much difference between the two groups. It's possible that physical activities may be more beneficial to learning that involves repetition, memorization and practice of lessons from previous classes, the researchers conclude.

Researchers did point out that there were limitations that could have impacted the results of the study during the first year. The exercise group received specially trained teachers and individual schools administered the tests.

The research team did not examine why exercise might have helped students do better during tests.

 Sara Benjamin Neelon, of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial that it’s not clear whether these types of classes would work in countries where the population is larger, more diverse and students come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

"However, the take-home message for parents and teachers is that physically active lessons may be a novel way to increase physical activity and improve academic performance – at the same time," Benjamin Neelon said by email.

More and more studies show that exercise appears to help the brain function better in children and adults. Whether all U.S. school administrations will see adding recess or exercise back into school curriculums is anybody’s guess, but according to science – it sure couldn’t hurt and might even help students develop stronger learning skills.

The study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-fitness-learning-idUSKCN0VX26V

Daily Dose

Newborns and Jog Strollers

I seem to get a lot of questions from new parents that are runners about using the jogging stroller with their newborn. I have researched this issue in the pediatric literature and I cannot find a consensus statement discussing when it is safe and appropriate to use a your-baby jogger with a newborn. (Could this be a double blind controlled study waiting to happen?)

Intuitively, it seems that using a your-baby jogger to walk or run with your newborn would be safe if you are covering the same terrain that you would with a regular stroller, i.e. not climbing Mt. Everest or running down the side of a mountain, over rugged terrain or over pot-holes which seem to be the most common problem in our neighborhood. All of these activities would also seem detrimental to the mother in the post-partum period, and despite being avid joggers it is important that a new mother not overexert herself. Most OB's recommend that a postpartum mother limit her physical activity for the first four to six weeks and I agree. It may be important for a new mother's sanity to get some light exercise, like a walk around the block, but not a 5-mile jog until they have been given the go ahead by their OB. If you push yourself too quickly you will see that it does take a toll both on your breast milk production and overall energy level. Just give it a few weeks to catch up with you as your euphoria and the hormones involved fade and you realize that you really are exhausted. Use the first few weeks after have a your-baby to lounge around in your nightgown, take a catnap and enjoy just staring at your newborn!! It is really the only time you will get that opportunity and the run will be there in a few weeks. This being said, the issue is really with the your-baby, and making sure that an infant's neck is supported while they are in the your-baby jogger. The manufacturers of many of the most popular your-baby joggers have come out with a car seat apparatus that fits into the your-baby jogger, for use with younger babies. This has head and neck support with cushioning and may be used until your your-baby develops more neck support at around 4 months of age. I have had many parents of infants who have started taking their your-baby on walks/runs at around four to six weeks of age gradually increasing the length of their exercise, while the your-baby seems to be quite happy snuggled in the jogger. Some parents say this is their your-baby's best sleep and can always be assured that their infant will calm down once they get moving. Much more economical than driving the your-baby around in the car too, which also seems to be a good calming maneuver. The only other issue is weather related. Make sure that your infant is well hydrated in the summer, wears a hat and sunscreen and is also shaded with an awning. Sun can penetrate the stroller awning so do not assume that your your-baby is not getting sun exposure. If bugs are a problem use mosquito netting too. The rule of thumb is if you are hot (or cold, during the winter months) so is your your-baby, so dress them appropriately and don't overdue it. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

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Daily Dose

Make Sure Your Playground is Safe

This is the best time of year for children playing on playgrounds and in the front yard.I was outside with the neighbors and their children on this beautiful evening and realized that the longer days of spring are here. This is the best time of year for children playing on playgrounds and in the front yard. With those outside activities come concerns about safety for children of all ages. From falling off the slide to running into the street to chase a ball and being hit by a car, accidents and injuries are far too common.

Approximately 20 children under the age of 14 die each year from injuries sustained on playgrounds. Many of these deaths occurred on backyard playgrounds. Thousands of other kids will make trips to the E.R. for fractures and sprains, cuts that need stitching, and head and neck injuries. The best way to ensure safe play is to ensure that the equipment they are playing on is safe, and that there is good parental supervision. Swings may pose a choking and hanging hazard, so check out that home made rope swing. Check out the slide for sharp edges or hooks that may cause lacerations. Burns may occur from slides that heat up in the heat of the midday sun (that may only be a southern experience!) Another source of injury is due to inappropriate surfaces beneath the playground equipment. Look into installing a protective shock-absorbing surface beneath your swing set or fort. Make sure that the surface extends far enough in all directions to cover jumps from swings and slides. Playing outside is a rite of passage, and a great way for a both family and friends to have fun, and get exercise. Just make the experience as safe as possible. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Your Child

Are Playgrounds Too Safe?

1.45 to read

It takes a lot to bore a preschooler. They are so inquisitive that just about everything seems interesting. But, believe it or not, playgrounds may have become so “safe” that they bore even preschoolers. A new report suggests that may be one of the reasons these little ones are not getting enough exercise.

Researchers have found that strict safety rules for equipment and low budgets at childcare centers were largely blamed for playgrounds that don't make kids feel like playing,

Kristen Copeland, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and her colleagues wrote in the February issue of Pediatrics that fixed playground equipment that meets licensing codes is unchallenging and uninteresting to children.

Another reason kids may not be exercising enough is that schools are focusing on academics at the expense of recess and gym.

"Societal priorities for young children -- safety and school readiness -- may be hindering children's physical development," they wrote in the paper.

According to an online article in Medpagetoday.com, three-quarters of U.S. kids, ages 3-5 years, attend childcare and most of their time is spent being sedentary.

"Because children spend long hours in care and many lack a safe place to play near their home, these barriers may limit children's only opportunity to engage in physical activity," Copeland's group explained. "This is particularly concerning because daily physical activity is not only essential for healthy weight maintenance, but also for practicing and learning fundamental gross motor skills."

The investigators conducted nine focus groups with a total of 49 childcare providers taking care of preschool-age children at 34 centers in Cincinnati, which varied from inner-city to suburban locations and included some Head Start and Montessori centers.

The providers interviewed were nearly all women with at least some college education. These providers commonly expressed concern that the children they cared for had little chance of outdoor playtime when they went home, particularly those who were picked up late in the day or whose parents worked multiple jobs.

Many of the parents didn't have a dedicated room indoors where kids could be active during bad weather.

To prepare kids for grade school, an emphasis has been placed on teaching children shapes, colors, and skills that prepare them for reading, but not giving them time for outdoor and active play- both of which have been shown to increase a child’s learning ability.

That pressure came directly from parents -- both upper- and lower-income families -- as well as from state early-learning standards.

Some parents also told providers to keep their children from participating in vigorous activities so that they would not be injured.

Providers felt that the playground equipment was safe to let kids play on because of beefed up state inspections and stricter licensing codes, but all the safety measures sort of back-fired and kids just weren’t interested.

"To keep it challenging, teachers noted that children would start to use equipment in (unsafe) ways for which it was not intended," the researchers wrote.

They quoted one provider who explained that with new equipment fitting the tighter standards, "you see children trying to climb into places they're not supposed to climb in because it's just not challenging. They're walking up the slide much more than they ever did with the other one. You can see they are just trying to find those challenges."

Pediatricians may be able to help address this problem by emphasizing the learning and physical benefits of active outdoor play, encouraging parents to dress their child for it, and not suggesting that physical activity is inherently dangerous when giving injury prevention advice, the researchers noted.

Source: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/GeneralPediatrics/30493

Your Child

Exercise Boosts Kids’ Grades!

2:00 to read

We all know that exercise is good for the heart, lungs, weight-control and now a new study suggests that it’s good for increasing academic performance as well.

The Dutch researchers reviewed several prior studies conducted in the United States, one from Canada and another out of South Africa. What they discovered was that all the studies showed that the more physically active students are, the better they do in the classroom.

"We found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," the researchers, led by Amika Singh of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center at the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

"The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children," the authors noted.

A total of 14 studies were reviewed. They involved students between the ages of 6 and 18. Some studies were smaller, working with 50 students, while another study had as many as 12,000 students. 

Researchers noted that students who exercised had increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain. These school-age children did better in the schoolroom. The analysis suggests that exercise also increases the levels of hormones responsible for curtailing stress and boosting mood, while at the same time establishing new nerve cells and synapse flexibility.

In recent years, there has been increasing evidence that has shown that many functions of the brain are highly dynamic, or “plastic”, meaning that the brain is able to continually change in response to stimulus and experience. This flexibility is thought to be a key property in allowing the nervous system to support short-term and sustained changes in output, associated with learning and memory.

Other studies have shown that people with early dementia benefit from exercise. Again, the increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain helps improve memory and learning function.

So, getting the kids off the couch and onto the playground (no matter whether it’s a public playground or the backyard) can help children stay physically fit and mentally alert.

The Dutch researchers would like to see more high quality studies conducted in this area of investigation.

"Relatively few studies of high methodological quality have explored the relationship between physical activity and academic performance," they acknowledged. "More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately."

It’s a pretty safe bet though, that the more a family exercises together, the healthier everyone will be.

The findings are published in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Sources: http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=660288 / http://www.sussex.ac.uk/aboutus/annualreview/2011/mindandbrain

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