Study: For Healthy Habits, Your Environment Matters

Have you ever resolved to eat healthier, only to be tempted by fast food options everywhere you look? Do you think you would exercise more if only you didn’t have to spend so much time in your car?

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Many in the public health community think that factors like these play a big role in what we eat, how much we move, and what we weigh. And many communities have tried to change these factors through so-called “environmental interventions.”

Researchers from Drexel University set out to test whether these environmental interventions work in a study recently published in the journal Obesity Reviews. They conducted a systematic review looking at the impact of various environmental interventions on diet, physical activity, and obesity. Their review included 37 natural and “quasi-“ experiments. About half of these studies focused on diet.

They found that studies involving mandatory changes to the food environment—such as laws banning trans fat in restaurants or requiring healthier foods to be offered in schools—were effective in their intended outcomes. Policies that make it easier for low-income people to use their benefits to buy fruits and vegetables were also effective. Continue reading

Study: School Health Programs Get Kids Moving

As summer wanes and back-to-school season approaches, kids may be cringing at the thought of getting back to long stretches at a school desk.  But can the school environment actually help kids increase their activity level? A new study published in Preventive Medicine suggests it can.PE

The study on 1,100 elementary and middle school students measured the effectiveness of a government program called HEROES, which was developed to increase physical activity during the school day.

The schools restructured their physical activity classes to focus more on movement than sports to ramp up active participation. Some schools added ten-minute bursts of physical activity into regular classroom time. Nearly all participating schools started before-school or after-school walking programs, adding another 15-20 active minutes to the school day.

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