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Details: New Presidential Youth Fitness Program

Published: Friday, September 14, 2012 @ 3:00 PM
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 @ 3:00 PM

Goodbye percentile scores, hello “healthy fitness zone.”

A new presidential youth fitness program is replacing the old presidential fitness test that most adults grew up with in physical education (PE) classes in school.

The updated program does away with comparing students’ performances on athletic tasks like sit-ups and push-ups and then rating them on a percentile scale vs. their peers.

Instead, the new program measures students’ health-related fitness based on what current research shows promotes good health and lowers the risk of disease.

“What is really apparent is that we have an obesity epidemic in our country, so we feel like we now need to focus on health versus athletic performance,” says Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. She announced the new program this week.

Pfohl says that when the original presidential fitness test was developed almost 50 years ago, it was designed to measure children’s athletic performance and abilities -- particularly in case they were called into military service.

“By design, the old test compared kids against each other, so by design 50% failed,” Pfohl tells WebMD.

Rather than comparing children against each other, Pfohl says the most important difference about the new program is “helping kids reach a healthy fitness zone.”

Updating the Fitness Test

Modernizing the presidential fitness test was a recommendation of the president’s council’s science board and the White House’s 2010 task force on childhood obesity, which inspired first lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move!" initiative.

"We have a better understanding of what it means to be a healthy kid," Mrs. Obama says. "One of the reasons I'm excited about the new program is because kids won't be measured on how fast they can run compared to their classmates, it'll be based on what they can do and what their own goal is. This is important because we want physical activity to be a lifelong habit."

The new “Fitnessgram” fitness assessment analyzes the students’ performance on evidence-based criteria in five different areas:

  • Cardiovascular fitness or aerobic capacity
  • Body composition
  • Muscle strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility

Fitnessgram is a fitness assessment and reporting program developed by the non-profit Cooper Institute. The software and support materials for the program are available free to schools online

The assessment uses a variety of tests, such as a skin-fold test to measure body composition, and exercises like curl-ups to gauge muscle strength and endurance.

Understanding the Results

Each test score is then evaluated using the “Healthy Fitness Zone” standards. A student who scores in the healthy fitness zone in five out of six events is eligible to receive the Presidential Youth Fitness Award.

Students whose results are below the healthy fitness zone standards are placed in the “needs improvement” zone. Within the needs improvement zone there are two levels based on how far below the standard they fall: “needs improvement - some risk” and “needs improvement - high risk.”

Children who need improvement are given information on the health risks linked to low fitness in these areas. They're also taught ways to reach the healthy zone and improve their physical fitness.

Officials say most students who are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day should be able to get a score that places them in the healthy fitness zone.

Is It Enough?

The new physical fitness program has the backing of several major health organizations and physical education professional groups.

But this program, like the old one, is completely voluntary.

That has some physical education experts questioning whether it is enough to combat the childhood obesity epidemic at a time when many schools are cutting PE due to budget constraints and academic performance pressures.

“It’s a good thing that we now have a plan in place to identify youth in America with low physical fitness and high body fat,” says Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, professor of exercise science at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J.

“But there is no incentive to participate or to even offer physical education,” says Faigenbaum. “We can only hope physical education teachers will hop on board.”

But Kent Adams, PhD, kinesiology professor at California State University at Monterey Bay, says the incentive is there.

“I think the incentive is the health and well-being of our children, which equates to the health and well-being of our country,” he says.

“It’s not fair to say it’s in the lap of our public schools,” Adams tells WebMD. “Schools are important, yes. But we have an obligation in our homes and communities to be partners in promoting a healthy lifestyle in our daily lives.”

SOURCES: News release, Presidential Youth Fitness Program.Shellie Pfohl, executive director, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, professor of exercise science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, N.J.Kent Adams, PhD, professor and chair, kinesiology department, California State University, Monterey Bay.American Academy of Sports Medicine.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Here’s how much fruit juice children should drink, according to new guidelines

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 12:19 PM



KidStock/Getty Images/Blend Images

Next time you're grocery shopping for your kids, think twice before adding a carton of fruit juice to your basket. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines on all juices, advising parents to pull back on how much they serve their little ones.

» Related: What Atlanta dietitians feed their kids 

Previous recommendations said parents should wait to give their babies juice until after six months, but its latest update is suggesting that they wait one year. 

In fact, infants should only be fed breast milk or infant formula for the first six months. After six months, moms and dads can then introduce fruit to their diet, but not fruit juice. 

>> Read more trending news

“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” said Melvin B. Heyman, MD, FAAP, co-author of the statement. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1.”

» Related: Should we slap a tax on sugary drinks? 

Scientists laid out instructions for older children, too. Toddlers who are ages 1 to 4 should only have one cup of fruit a day. Four ounces of that can come from 100 percent fruit juice, but it should be pasteurized and not labeled “drink,” “beverage” or cocktail.” 

For children ages 4 to 6, fruit juice intake shouldn't exceed four to six ounces a day. 

The amount increases just slightly for children ages 7 to 18. They can have up to two and a half cups of fruit servings, but only eight ounces of it should be juice. 

Top 15 crusaders for health in America's food industry

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 10:59 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 10:59 PM

Wondering how this year's list stacks up against the last? Check out Top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry 2012.

Amongst all the junk food commercials and donut sandwiches, there are a handful of health heroes. These aren’t just people who eat organic greens for lunch and free-range eggs for dinner; they’re moving and shaking the way we think about our food, including where it comes from, the implications it has on our environment, and what our meals mean for our bodies. Here, we recognize 15 superstars (in no particular order) that have devoted themselves to improving American’s relationship with food.

 

1. Marion Nestle
Nestle has got her hand in nearly every facet of America’s food industry. Her blog, Food Politics, covers topics from nutrition and biology to health policy and food marketing. She’s been teaching nutrition for nearly four decades and currently teaches sociology, food studies, and public health at NYU. Nestle is the author of many books, but her latest — “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics” — is all about understanding the intersection of health and food amidst all the mass marketing and misinformation put forth by major food manufacturers. Currently, Nestle updates her blog regularly and presents at universities and conferences on topics such as genetically modified foods and the role food companies play in our food system. (Photo: www.foodpolitics.com)

 

2. Michael Pollan
As one of the foremost activists for change in the overwrought food industry, Pollan is an outspoken and often controversial figure in the food and farming space. Though probably best known for his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (which hung out on The New York Times Bestseller list for more than three years), Pollan has continued to write. In his most recent book, “Cooked”, Pollan explores how cooking connects us to plants, animals, farmers, and culture (amongst other things). (Photo by Ken Light)

 

3. Michelle Obama
After launching the Let’s Move! campaign at the start of 2010, the First Lady has made healthifying America’s eating habits (especially for kids) her job. The ultimate goal is to eliminate childhood obesity and help kids live healthier lives with good food and a little extra physical activity. This year, Obama held the second annual “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” where she asked children ages eight to 12 to whip up nutritious, tasty, and affordable recipes. Unfortunately, we weren’t invited to the White House kids’ “State Dinner” with the winner of this year’s challenge. (Photo: www.whitehouse.gov)

 

4. Mark Bittman
As an author and New York Times writer,Bittman likes to weigh in on what’s wrong with the American diet. A part-time veganhimself, Bittman is an advocate for the “flexitarian” diet — which means eating vegan during the day, but allowing for more flexible consumption after 6 pm. His super popular book, “How to Cook Everything”, is a go-to resource for basic kitchen skills. Not only does he push for humans to stay healthy, Bittman relentlessly encourages us to keep the environment happy and healthy, too. Oh, and in his spare time, he runsmarathons(Photo: www.markbittman.com)

 

5. Mike Bloomberg
As the mayor of New York City, Bloombergtakes his role seriously, making waves in the name of public health. From smoking bans tosoda bans, Bloomberg’s initiatives aren’t without controversy and backlash. Passionate about combating obesity, he’s pushed for salad bars and healthier menus in school cafeterias. Plus, he’s managed to eliminate trans fats from tons of restaurant items, and make it mandatory for chain restaurants to clearly post calorie counts on menus. We’re excited to see what goals Bloomberg sets (and reaches) next. (Photo: www.nyc.gov)

 
For the full list of 2013's top health crusaders in the food industry, go to Greatist.com.

Turns out social media can make exercise contagious

Published: Saturday, May 13, 2017 @ 6:53 PM

We love a good workout buddy. You know, that ride-or-die friend who gives you an extra dose of motivation to roll out of bed for a 6 a.m. boot camp class. But what about those of us who’d rather sweat solo? Good news: You don’t necessarily need to work out with your friends to tap into the benefits, just as long as you have friends in your circle who work out.

»RELATED: 30 minutes of daily exercise enough to shed pounds

As it turns out, exercise is kind of contagious. That’s the conclusion from a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, which incorporated five years of data from about 1.1 million runners. That length of time and large sample size means the study is legit; however, there’s one hiccup: The study participants don’t exactly represent the population as a whole, since the data came from a particularly fit subset consisting of people who run and wear fitness trackers. Still, the findings are interesting.

Participants used an app with social sharing abilities so their friends could see the details of every run they went on (and vice versa). Researchers found the social media snooping served as motivation to get moving. If runner 1 ran an extra .62 miles, runner 2 felt inspired to run more too. And if runner 1 ran 10 minutes longer, runner 2 would go for a few extra minutes. The influence was strongest most immediately and seemed to cool over time. For example, runners were more influenced by what their friends did that day than by what they did three days ago.

The "contagiousness" of exercise wasn’t the same for everyone across the board. The correlation was strongest between men. Women also influenced guys, but to a lesser extent, and only women felt the positive peer pressure from other women.

» RELATED: New Great Miami canoe livery sneak peek part of River Ride

So does this mean that most of us push ourselves harder to compete with those who are more athletic than us? Or are we more motivated to maintain our dominance over the people we’re better than? Researchers found both upward and downward comparisons at play, but the latter—the downward comparison—was stronger.

What does this mean IRL? Having friends who are healthy and fit (and willing to share the deets about what they do to remain healthy and fit) could give you extra incentive to exercise. “Who are the people you can surround yourself with who are going to push you to do better?” says Christian Koshaba, founder, CEO, and lead trainer at Three60Fit in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “You don’t have to be physically there together—it can be calling each other, sharing your Fitbit data, really anything that’ll push you like, ‘Oh there’s that number? Now I’m going to do better than that.’” 

Just make sure you find friends who are around the same fitness level as you. The study's researchers found competing on a close-to-level playing field had the strongest influence. Plus, trying to compete with someone who’s out of your league could backfire if you end up injured, Koshaba says. In general though, “the positives outweigh the negatives when you’re striving to be better,” he says.

Of course, to make the findings of this study work for you, you have to be willing to share your stats. Koshaba says some of his clients track how much they’re lifting and how fast they’re running in a shared Google doc. Or you can embrace the social features of your favorite exercise apps so you know how you measure up. Here are three we’re fans of:

  • Nike+ Run Club: Pace, elevation, heart rate, splits—all of your stats are logged within the app. Follow up the workout by sharing your run (plus any photos you took along the way) with your entire social network or just with those within your Nike+ circle. The app’s leaderboard feature also lets you tag your miles against challenges to see where you stand.
  • Runkeeper: Start a virtual running group (which is easy to do, thanks to this app’s community of 50 million runners) and knock out the running goals you set as a team, such as running twice a week for one month.
  • Strava: Your workout will be recorded on your Strava feed, where friends can cheer you on and where you can see what others are up to. That’ll come in handy on those days when you’re tempted to skip the workout altogether.

» RELATED: Drug company says discount program will lower prescription prices

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, it's cool to look into the science behind something that's so relevant and relatable, but it all comes down to what motivates you. Posting about fitness on social media isn't always vain; it's an easy and accessible way to hold yourself accountable and give or get inspiration to move. If you're the type of person who's motivated by competition or numbers, great! But if following your friends' fitness habits turns toxic, causes you to compare yourself in a negative way, or makes you feel bad about your own performance, then it's time to unfollow for your own good.

Related

VIDEO: This is how colorblind people see the world

Published: Monday, May 01, 2017 @ 10:37 AM



Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Approximately one in 12 men and one in 200 women in the world are colorblind, according to the Colour Blind Awareness organization.

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Though colorblind people are usually able to see things as clearly as everyone else, they’re unable to fully see red, green or blue light, according to the Colour Blind Awareness website.

Business Insider put together a video using Colblindor’s online color blindness simulator to show you how people who are colorblind see the world.