Newsletter Article

Healthy Habits Last a Lifetime

Many of the habits that have a long term impact on our health begin at a very early age. Therefore, it is very important to educate children on the importance of a healthy diet and staying active as early as possible.

A recent study followed 10 and 11 year old children who either went through a 20 week intervention program or were part of a control group with no intervention. [1] The program’s focus was on educating the children about physical activity and healthy eating, involving a teacher-led curriculum, learning resources, and homework assignments. At the end of the 20 week period, a significant change in waist circumference was observed in those children involved in the program. At the follow-up visit (10 weeks later), a decrease for the BMI z-score and an increase in light intensity physical activity were seen. The intervention was shown to be most effective for children that were considered overweight or obese. The fact that changes in the BMI z-score and physical activity were seen later in the study may show that retention of the material resulted in a change in habits and behaviors.

Children’s eating habits start developing before they begin grade school and are heavily dependent on their parents. Another study used first-time parents in an educational intervention. [2] These parents attended six group sessions over a 15 month period. Food recalls were used to report dietary intake of their infants at the start of the program (3 months old) and at the end of the program (18 months old), and a point system based on the nutritional values of food items was used. Parents in the intervention group reported significantly higher scores compared to the control group at the end of the study.

If children are exposed to poor health choices at a young age, these behaviors tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood, ultimately leading to an increased risk for a wide range of chronic diseases. It is important to instill good health habits in children so that they continue throughout life.