Quick note of a new blog that may be of relevance to our email subcribers. PLOS Blogs (the folks who host Obesity Panacea) are in the process of adding a few new blogs to the mix, one of which is titled Public Health. The title should give a pretty good idea of what they’ll be discussing, which obviously has a large amount of overlap with the topics we discuss here on OP. There will be a number of researchers/science writers contributing to the blog, including our good friend and colleague Atif Kukaswadia (aka Mr Epidemiology).
In public health, we spend a lot of our time working with upstream determinants of health – how does road design affect physical activity? What is the impact of clean drinking water? How do viruses spread – either through vulnerable populations or around the world? Sometimes these have clear outcomes, and sometimes if we’re successful, the outcome never materializes. We’ll be talking about various issues and factors that affect public health, and welcome your input.
And if it’s been a while since you visited the PLOS Blogs landing page, it’s worth coming back for another look as they have added several new blogs in the past few months, many of which are likely of interest to our regular readers.
Active Healthy Kids Canada released a position stand this morning on active gaming as a means of increasing physical activity (full disclosure: I wasn’t involved in the process, although various labmates/colleagues of mine were). When it comes to the health impact of active gaming, my views are nicely summarized by the below parody of a Wii Fit commercial, which Peter posted a few years ago on ObesityPanacea.com. In short, I don’t think they are all that helpful in getting the “typical” Canadian kid to be more active (more below on specific populations of kids who may benefit).
The current position stand was based on a systematic review of the current evidence, similar to the one used to inform Canada’s sedentary behaviour and physical activity guidelines. Generally speaking, it seems that the authors of the Active Healthy Kids Canada position stand are in agreement with me that active games are not so helpful. Their not-so-subtle title (their emphasis): “Active Healthy Kids Canada doesnot recommend active video games as a strategy to help kids be more physically active”.
Active Healthy Kids Canada does not recommend active video games as a strategy to help kids be more physically active.
Playing active video games doesn’t lead to increased overall daily physical activity levels.
Active video games may get heart rates up, but they’re not significantly helping kids get to the 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity required each day.
Kids find active video games appealing, but the appeal wears off over time and many don’t stick with them.
Active video games don’t offer the fresh air, vitamin D, connection with nature and social interactions that come with outdoor active play.
Their recommendations (my emphasis):
Active video games are a good way to break up sedentary time, like sitting on the couch, but not as good as playing real active games or sports.
Enjoy playing active video games with your kids, and let them enjoy playing them with their friends, but don’t misunderstand this as a replacement of real physical activity.
If money is spent on active video games as a means of exercise, it might be better spent on skipping ropes, balls, ice skates or other sporting equipment.
I think it’s worthwhile noting that the position stand does not say that kids should never play active games (I’m trying to proactively prevent this from coming up in the comments). Parents just shouldn’t confuse active gaming time with “real” physical activity. Yes, active games may get your heart rate up for a few minutes, but when researchers have measured kids’ activity levels, they find that the introduction of active video games don’t have an impact on total daily activity levels. Kids also tend to lose interest in the games fairly quickly.
The statement also notes that there are specific situations where kids are likely to benefit from active games:
In kids with developmental delays, movement challenges or injuries, active video games can be used to help teach motor skills, improve movement and rehabilitate.
So there are some specific niches where these devices may help kids to become more active, but the evidence suggests that it’s not going to help kids with typical development increase their activity levels.
AHKC has produced the below video outlining their position (email subscribers can view the video on our website).
And you can find all sorts of information about the position stand on the AHKC website. Papers outlining the systematic review that led to this position stand and the process of creating the position itself will hopefully be published in the near future.
Each year the Canadian Obesity Network Student and New Professional organization at the University of Ottawa hosts a free public event related to obesity. Two years ago it was a debate titled “Forks vs Feet“, while last year we asked “Is Obesity a Disease?“. On Thursday, November 22, we will be hosting an event titled “Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?”. The event will feature a talk by Dr Jean-Philippe Chaput, who holds a Junior Research Chair at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. JP is an absolutely prolific researcher who has published extensively on factors influencing weight gain including sleep, physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
The talk is aimed at an undergraduate audience, but it’s open to the public and completely free to attend.
Here are the event details:
When: 5:00– 6:00pm on Thursday, November 22nd, 2012
Where: Pub 1848 (main campus Ottawa U), 215-85 University Private
A few of the folks who have donated to support CON so far
Time for a brief Public Service Announcement.
Regular readers of Obesity Panacea will be well aware of the good work done by the Canadian Obesity Network (CON). Peter and I have benefited greatly from their work – we both attended their student retreat (aka the CON bootcamp), we liveblogged their most recent Obesity Summit in Montreal, and they have also provided financial and in-kind support for public outreach events like our recent debates titled “Forks vs Feet” and “Is Obesity A Disease?“. They have plenty of other initiatives as well, and are at the forefront of the battle to end weight bias and discrimination. Despite being a Canadian organization, CON is now the largest obesity-related organization in the world. What’s more, becoming a CON member is completely free.
So why the CON-focus today? Well, the National Centre of Excellence grant that was used to create CON ran out 2 years ago, and CON now needs financial support to keep going. Given all the good work that CON is doing, and especially given that it’s all been done without charging any membership fees, I’m urging people to check out their donation page to donate a few dollars to the cause today. The wordle above shows several of the folks who have donated to support CON so far, and regular readers will recognize a number of familiar names among them.
I don’t know of any group that is doing as much to promote obesity prevention, treatment and research as CON, especially given that they have been able to avoid charging any membership fees whatsoever until now (for context, I pay up to $400/year for my other professional memberships, and that’s for the relatively cheap “student” membership). So if you have benefited from the work of CON (especially former CON bootcampers), attended their public events here in Ottawa or elsewhere, or simply think they are doing important work, it would be really great if you would consider donating a few dollars, and spread the word online.
Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting during the same session as Dr Matthew Buman at the International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health. Dr Buman’s work focuses on the relationship between physical activity, sedentary behaviour, sleep and health, and his talk was on a new cross-sectional study which examined the potential health impact of replacing time spent sitting down (e.g. sedentary behaviour) with light activity, moderate-to-vigorous activity, or even sleep.
Not surprisingly, he found that replacing sitting time with moderate or vigorous physical activity provides the biggest health benefit. However, his analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests that simply replacing your sitting time with light activity (e.g. standing or walking), or even sleep could result in significant health benefits. This reminded me of a recent editorial that I published with Dr Jean-Philippe Chaput in the British Journal of Nutrition, which asked whether it could be healthier to sleep through your favourite tv programs, rather than watching them. The editorial was intentionally provocative, and while this new work by Dr Buman is cross-sectional, it is part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that light activity and sleep need greater attention when it comes to health research. This work also highlights the importance of studying the full 24-hour cycle of human movement, rather than the traditional focus on MVPA, which accounts for <5% of the total day.
My brief interview with Dr Buman can be seen below. You can find out more about the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at ASU here.
Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, but I’ve done a few other interviews during my time in Sydney which I will upload over the coming days and weeks. I hope everyone enjoyed the conference, and for other recaps of what’s been happening over the past few days here at the Convention Centre be sure to check out the official conference blog at beactiveblog.com.
Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr Deirdre McGhee, a researcher and sports physiotherapist at the University of Wollongong. Dr McGhee’s work focuses on sports bras – how they fit, and how they impact physical activity. Her work has found that more than 80% of women wear a sports bra that does not fit them properly. This can result in a myriad of problems ranging from embarrassment (especially for adolescents), physical discomfort, and even reduced sport performance. I have embedded a short video below where Dr McGhee describes her work, and gives tips on simple resources that can help women determine whether their bras fit them properly (email subscribers can view the video on our blog).
From a previous article on Dr McGhee, here are her 3 tips for bra fitting success:
1. Don’t have the band too loose – the band is the primary support and it shouldn’t move up and down as you move your arms.
2. When worn, the cups should have no wrinkles and gaps (too big) and no bulging of breast tissue to the side or below the armpit (too small).
3. The underwire must sit on the ribs in your armpit. The front between the cups flush on your breastbone. The straps must be firm and supportive but not uncomfortable.
Dr McGhee has helped to create a bra fitting brochure, which you can access online for free here. She assures me that it is extremely simple to get the proper fit for a sports bra, most women just haven’t been taught how to do so. Dr McGhee has also created an iPhone/iPad app which will allow women to assess their bra fit, and track their sports bras over time, which you will be able to find in the Apple app store in the coming weeks by searching “Sports Bra”.
Peter Janiszewski has a PhD in clinical exercise physiology. He's a medical writer/editor, a published obesity researcher, university lecturer, and an avid traveler. You can connect with Peter on Twitter. For more information please visit his website.
Travis Saunders is a PhD student researching the relationship between sedentary time and chronic disease risk in children and youth. He is also a Certified Exercise Physiologist and competitive distance runner. You can connect with Travis on Twitter and Google+.
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The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.