An inappropriately high weight in children is a predictor of health risks. Reliable interventions that are easily disseminated are needed.
Based on findings with adults, exercise-support methods might be leveraged to change behavioral predictors of a healthy body composition in youth. Analyses of changes in theory-based psychological variables’ association with changes in body composition within the context of youth-tailored treatment are required.
A 45 minute/day, 4 day/week, social cognitive/self-efficacy theory-based after-school care protocol, Youth Fit 4 Life, was tested in children of a normal (n=54) and overweight/obese (n=32) body composition over a school year. The treatment’s emphasis was on improvements in mood, self-efficacy, and self-regulation related to physical activity. Validated self-report measures of negative mood, self-regulation, and self-efficacy, and BMI, were administered at baseline, and months 3 and 9. The prediction of BMI change from changes in the psychosocial variables was assessed using multiple regression analyses.
Change in BMI and improvements in the aforementioned psychosocial factors were significant over both 3 and 9 months, and did not differ between body composition groups. Analyses indicated that over 3 months, self-regulation change was a significant predictor of BMI change (β=-0.26, SE=0.05, P=0.03), while over 9 months, self-efficacy change significantly predicted BMI change (β=-0.21, SE=0.02, P=0.05).
After replications and extensions focused also on eating behaviors, it was suggested that the inexpensive and efficient Youth Fit 4 Life protocol might be scalable across community venues to address childhood overweight and obesity.
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