Obesity is a major challenge in developed countries such as the UK, with the most recent statistics indicating that 33 percent of girls (aged 2-19) are overweight or obese. There are, of course, a multitude of potential reasons or triggers including diet, lifestyle and upbringing, or genetics.
As a result, a new swathe of pediatric conditions are on the rise, including type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, conditions typically found in adults, that are adding emphasis to the need for increased resources provided by the NHS and raising concern over the health of child and teenage populations. However, recent research has indicated which of several treatments typically mentioned to reduce obesity is showing the most promise, and it is hardly as arduous or as expensive as you might think.
The female body is biologically programmed to aid in the deposition of fat on adipose tissue, a type of tissue commonly known as body fat. Women typically have around 7 percent more body fat as compared to men, namely as a result of the hormone oestrogen, which is produced during adolescence and results in the aforementioned deposition.
However, it must be said that fat is a necessary component to a healthy human body. Indeed, adipose tissue plays an active role in the endocrine system, responsible for the secretion of hormones into the blood stream, such as leptin, which controls appetite, or apiponectin, whose role involves the regulation of blood glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown. Furthermore, body fat protects musculature and vital organs, the latter being a vastly important duty in woman due to their potential to give life.
Typically, diet and exercise are both advised to reduce obesity in young adults, however, SoJung Lee of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently demonstrated that an increase in physical activity without a change in diet in teenage boys improved a suite of health markers ranging from reduced total visceral fat (the fat surrounding the organs) to better lung fitness.
This prompted Lee and her team to investigate whether this simple change in physical activity had a similar effect on girls. In this three-month study, aerobic exercise, which can include sports such as jogging, running or swimming, and resistance training, where weights are used to stress muscle fibers, were compared to a control group who kept a sedentary lifestyle.
The varied exercise routines were performed three times a week for one hour. Although both exercise groups showed beneficial changes in the girls participating in the study, those who conducted only aerobic exercise showed greater losses in visceral fat and liver fat, while their sensitivity to insulin improved, reducing the possibility of type-2 diabetes.
The results suggested that aerobic exercise may provide more significant results when treating obesity related conditions in adolescent girls, while also noting that the participants in the study enjoyed their aerobic workouts more compared to the resistance training group.
However, how does this change the way we treat obesity related conditions? Firstly, studies such as this help provide targeted lifestyle changes based on a person’s age or gender, making the process more efficient. Furthermore, it also allows the redirection of resources to appropriate areas; an all-girls school in an area where childhood obesity is prevalent could benefit from physical education lessons tailored around aerobic exercise, for example.
Most importantly, the conclusions from this study demonstrate how easy it can be to turn a life around: ignore the expensive gym memberships, the need for large amounts of free time, or drastic changes to diet. All you need is a pair of trainers and a few hours per week to significantly alter your health for the better.
What do you feel is the most effective and beneficial exercise program for keeping healthy?