The Teens Are Alright (Healthwise, at Least)

U.S. teens are getting healthier, and, it seems, are doing what they’re told when it comes to eating right and exercising more.

Between 2001 and ’09, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows, teens became model health citizens. According to a national survey involving 9,000 students in grades six to 10, adolescents were more physically active, enjoyed more fruits and vegetables, ate breakfast, limited dessert and watched less TV. And all those healthy habits paid off.

While body-mass-index (BMI) measures (an indication of body fat using weight and height) of U.S. adolescents grew between 2001 and ’06, it remained stable from 2006 to ’09, suggesting that average BMI readings among teens are leveling off.

Weight stabilized for both boys and girls although there were slight differences between gender. Boys were more physically active than girls, but girls spent less time in front of the TV or computer.

The authors of the report say campaigns to promote exercise among adolescents and decrease screen time may be responsible for some of the positive behavior changes; pediatricians who discussed the benefits of lifestyle changes with their patients also helped. Improving interactions between doctors, nurses and their teen patients can potentially accomplish even more in helping adolescents to understand the importance of making lifestyle changes to their health — and sticking with them for a lifetime.

MORE: To Help Teens Lose Weight, Fold Talk Therapy into Health Class


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