Posted in Healthy Habits, Weight Loss, Youth Fitness

Incorporating exercise into classroom lessons increases children’s physical activity levels
Date:March 25, 2015
Source:Montefiore Medical Center
Short-burst exercise program incorporated into classroom lessons increases children’s activity levels, a study confirms.

Children who participate in a short-burst exercise program incorporated into their classroom lessons take 300 more steps per day than children who do not participate in the program, according to a study published in the journal Childhood Obesity. CHAM JAM (Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Joining Academics and Movement) is an audio CD consisting of 10-minute, education-focused aerobic activities led by teachers in the classroom, that has been shown to increase children’s activity levels when performed up to three times per day.

While 60 minutes of exercise per day is recommended for children, few kids actually practice this regularly. The approach of incorporating exercise into the classroom could be beneficial for adding physical activity to a child’s daily routine and has the potential to decrease children’s risk of obesity and associated illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

The study followed children in kindergarten and first-grade classes in four Bronx elementary schools, and was led by Marina Reznik, M.D., M.S., attending physician, Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and associate professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and colleagues, including Principal Investigator Philip O. Ozuah, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president and chief operating officer, Montefiore, and professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology & Population Health, Einstein.

Two schools were randomly assigned to receive the CHAM JAM intervention and two schools served as the control group. The number of steps taken daily by children in all schools were similar at baseline; however eight weeks later the schools that incorporated CHAM JAM during lessons saw a significant increase in steps taken. The data were derived from a concealed pedometer that all participating children wore for five consecutive school days at baseline and again post-intervention.

“Childhood obesity is a national concern, but it is even more prevalent among minority communities in urban areas such as the Bronx where rates as high as 26% have been recorded among school children ages six to 11 years old,” said Dr. Reznik. “We know that Physical Education (PE) is an important part of the school day but barriers such as lack of space and resources have contributed to a reduction in PE in schools nationwide. Research shows that physical activity can have beneficial effects on kids’ musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health, as well as reduce body fat and we want to give our children an opportunity to gain these advantages. The CHAM JAM program was created to combine education and exercise, and we’re pleased to report that it does indeed improve children’s activity levels while also focusing on academic goals.”

Dr. Reznik also notes that nearly half of all participants — 461 children in the intervention group and 464 in the control group — were obese or overweight, and that activity improvements found were consistent irrespective of gender, grade level or weight status. “CHAM JAM was created to address the increasing levels of childhood obesity in the Bronx,” she says, “and we believe this cost-effective method of integrating physical activity that complements the classroom curricula could be a helpful asset to other educators across the country.”

The educational material included during CHAM JAM is based on the approved curriculum for each grade level. Children respond to questions pre-recorded over different types of contemporary music, such as “Can anyone tell me what animal is from Australia, has a pouch to carry its babies and jumps really high? That’s right, a kangaroo! Let’s hop with both feet like kangaroo,” and “Today, we’re going to learn about adding numbers while we exercise. Okay, what’s 2 plus 2? Right, it’s four. Let’s do four jumping jacks. Go!”

Teachers reported that CHAM JAM was a helpful tool in encouraging children to exercise but beyond that it also helped them to focus better on lessons afterwards and encouraged them to do the exercises together with their families at home.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Montefiore Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Reznik Marina, Wylie-Rosett Judith, Kim Mimi, and Ozuah Philip O. A Classroom-Based Physical Activity Intervention for Urban Kindergarten and First-Grade Students: A Feasibility Study. Childhood Obesity, March 2015 DOI: 10.1089/chi.2014.0090

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Posted in Benefits of Exercise, Healthy Habits, Youth Fitness

Strong link between adolescent obesity, high blood pressure

Date:  March 3, 2015
Source:  Oxford University Press USA

A recent study published in the American Journal of Hypertension has found that body mass index (BMI) in healthy adolescents has a statistically significant association with both systolic blood pressures (SBP) and diastolic blood pressures (DBP), and highlights the significance of the global trend of rapidly increasing adolescent obesity.

The study, led by Yaron Arbel, M.D., Department of Cardiology, Tel Aviv Medical Center, examined 715,000 Israeli adolescents, both male and female, aged 16-20, who had received medical exams from 1998-2011.

There was a statistically significant link observed between BMI and blood pressure, both of which saw significant annual increases during the study. The percentage of overweight adolescents increased from 13.2% in 1998 to 21% in 2011, while the percentage of adolescents with high blood pressure (SBP > 130mmHg) rose from 7% to 28% in males and 2% to 12% in females.

The association of BMI to blood pressure was more pronounced in females than males. While the reason for this is not immediately clear, researchers hypothesized that it may be attributable to certain hormonal factors.

“An important finding in our analysis is that BMI was positively associated with SBP and DBP in both the normal weight and overweight groups,” says Dr. Arbel. “This highlights the importance of BMI as a marker for cardiovascular health in all body types.”

Dr. Arbel feels that the study highlights the need to address childhood obesity: “Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. They are much more likely to be obese as adults and are consequently more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, numerous types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.”


The above story is based on materials provided by Oxford University Press USA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Yaron Arbel et al. Trends in Adolescents Obesity and the Association between BMI and Blood Pressure: A Cross-Sectional Study in 714,922 Healthy Teenagers. American Journal of Hypertension, March 2015 DOI: 10.1093/ajh/hpv007


Posted in Healthy Habits

Creative genius driven by distraction


Date:  March 3, 2015

Source:  University of Southern California

Now new Northwestern University research suggests why the inability to shut out competing sensory information while focusing on the creative project at hand might have been so acute for geniuses such as Proust, Franz Kafka, Charles Darwin, Anton Chekhov and many others.

The Northwestern research provides the first physiological evidence that real-world creativity may be associated with a reduced ability to filter “irrelevant” sensory information.

The research suggests that some people are more affected by the daily bombardment of sensory information — or have “leakier” sensory filters.

“Leaky” sensory gating, the propensity to filter out “irrelevant” sensory information, happens early, and involuntarily, in brain processing and may help people integrate ideas that are outside of the focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world, said Darya Zabelina, lead author of the study, calling the finding “impressive.”

The researchers investigated specific neural markers of a very early form of attention, namely sensory gating, indexed by P50 ERP, the neurophysiological response that occurs 50 ms (milliseconds) after stimulus onset, and how it relates to two measures of creativity: divergent thinking and real-world creative achievement.

In the study, approximately 100 participants reported their achievements in creative domains via Creative Achievement Questionnaire, as well as performed a test of divergent thinking, generally considered to be a laboratory test of creative cognition. On this test participants were asked to provide as many answers as they could to several unlikely scenarios, within a limited amount of time. The number and the novelty of participants’ responses comprised the divergent thinking score. As a result, the researchers had two different measures of creativity: a number of peoples’ real-world creative achievements and a laboratory measure of divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking tests are timed laboratory measures of creative cognition, in which participants produce numerous responses within a limited time. In the study, divergent thinking correlated with academic test scores and selective sensory gating — an increased ability to filter compared to lower divergent thinkers.

In direct contrast, real-world creative achievement was associated with leaky sensory processing — or a reduced ability to screen or inhibit stimuli from conscious awareness. This shows that these creativity measures are sensitive to different forms of sensory gating. Divergent thinking does contribute to creativity, but appears to be separate from the process of creative thinking that is associated with the leaky sensory filter.

The study suggests that creative people with “leaky” sensory gating may have a propensity to deploy attention over a wider focus or a larger range of stimuli.

“If funneled in the right direction, these sensitivities can make life more rich and meaningful, giving experiences more subtlety,” said Zabelina, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Northwestern.

But the downsides to such sensory distraction have been well noted by some of the world’s most creative thinkers.

One of the most influential novelists of the 20th century, Kafka once said, “I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ — that wouldn’t be enough — but like a dead man.” Darwin, Chekhov and Johan Goethe also strongly lamented the distracting nature of noise.

The study cannot yet determine whether reduced sensory gating is a stable trait, or if creative achievers can modulate their sensory processing depending on task demands.