The Open Public Health Journal




ISSN: 1874-9445 ― Volume 13, 2020
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Exercise Program-Related Psychosocial Changes Promote Healthy Weight in Youth



James J. Annesi*
YMCA of Metro Atlanta Atlanta, GA, USA
Kennesaw State University Kennesaw ,GA, USA

Abstract

Background:

An inappropriately high weight in children is a predictor of health risks. Reliable interventions that are easily disseminated are needed.

Objective:

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.

Method:

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.

Results:

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).

Conclusion:

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.

Keywords: Physical activity, Exercise, Self-regulation, Self-efficacy, BMI, Children.


Article Information


Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2017
Volume: 10
First Page: 126
Last Page: 131
Publisher Id: TOPHJ-10-126
DOI: 10.2174/1874944501710010126

Article History:

Received Date: 21/04/2017
Revision Received Date: 25/05/2017
Acceptance Date: 16/06/2017
Electronic publication date: 10/08/2017

© 2017 James J. Annesi .

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


* Address correspondence to this author at the YMCA of Metro Atlanta Atlanta, GA, USA; Tel: +4045889622; E-mail: jamesa@ymcaatlanta.org





1. INTRODUCTION

An inappropriately high body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) is now present in over one-third of elementary school-age children in the United States [1Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA 2014; 311(8): 806-14.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2014.732] [PMID: 24570244]
]. Increased childhood overweight and obesity across industrialized nations are a predictor of health risks and future health care expenditures [2O’Dea JA, Eriksen M, Eds. Childhood obesity prevention: international research, controversies, and interventions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press 2010.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572915.001.0001]
, 3Koplan JP, Liverman CT, Kraak VI, Wisham SL, Eds. Progress in preventing childhood obesity: How do we measure up?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2007.]. It was suggested that theory-based treatments could be leveraged to address this problem through a focus on psychosocial correlates of physical activity, and a proposed carry-over to healthy eating and weight [4Annesi JJ, Johnson PH, Tennant GA, Porter KJ, Mcewen KL. Weight loss and the prevention of weight regain: Evaluation of a treatment model of exercise self-regulation generalizing to controlled eating. Perm J 2016; 20(3): 4-17.
[PMID: 26901268]
]. Social cognitive theory [5Bandura A. Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 1986.] and self-efficacy theory [6Bandura A. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman 1997.] are related paradigms that focus on individuals’ ability to negotiate their environments and develop such behavioral changes.

In an effort to best utilize the time in after-school care settings allocated to physical activity using health behavior change theory, an earlier version of the treatment assessed within the present investigation was initially developed [7Annesi JJ, Westcott WL, Faigenbaum AD, Unruh JL. Effects of a 12-week physical activity protocol delivered by YMCA after-school counselors (Youth Fit For Life) on fitness and self-efficacy changes in 5-12-year-old boys and girls. Res Q Exerc Sport 2005; 76(4): 468-76.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2005.10599320] [PMID: 16739685]
], and researched over a considerable period [8Annesi JJ, Marti CN, Stice E. A meta-analytic review of the Youth Fit For Life intervention for effects on body mass index in 5- to 12-year-old children. Health Psychol Rev 2010; 4: 6-21.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17437190903168561]
]. In addition to the treatment’s primary focus on delivering moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, it aimed to increase out-of-program (voluntary) physical activity and improve eating behaviors through instruction in self-regulatory skills (e.g., positive self-talk, thought restructuring, goal setting/progress feedback, recruiting social supports), fostering feelings of mastery (i.e., self-efficacy) through the purposeful use of those self-regulatory skills to solve problems and overcome barriers, and improving psychological states through relaxation and other self-control techniques. Although, the treatment demonstrated significant improvements in physical activity levels, attaining/maintaining a healthy body composition, and targeted psychosocial factors [8Annesi JJ, Marti CN, Stice E. A meta-analytic review of the Youth Fit For Life intervention for effects on body mass index in 5- to 12-year-old children. Health Psychol Rev 2010; 4: 6-21.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17437190903168561]
], revisions were recently made through adjusting and extending its curriculum separately for the age ranges of 5–8 and 9–12 years. The 9–12 year-old version of that protocol, Youth Fit 4 Life (YF4L), was preliminarily tested here.

It was expected that YF4L would be associated with overall significant improvements in BMI, and demonstrate greater improvements in the overweight/obese participants. Also, it was hypothesized that program-related improvements in self-efficacy, self-regulation, and mood would predict changes in body composition. Hopefully, findings could eventually be translated into large-scale, efficient applications to increase physical activity and reduce overweight/obesity in youth.

2. MATERIAL AND METHODS

2.1. Participants

Participants enrolled in pilot research on the YF4L after-school care program [9Annesi JJ, Walsh SM, Greenwood BL, Mareno N, Unruh-Rewkowski JL. Effects of the Youth Fit 4 Life physical activity/nutrition protocol on body mass index, fitness and targeted social cognitive theory variables in 9- to 12-year-olds during after-school care. J Paediatr Child Health 2017; 53(4): 365-73.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpc.13447] [PMID: 28052570]
] were classified as either overweight/obese (≥85th BMI percentile, based on age- and sex-adjusted normative data [10National Center for Health Statistics 2000 CDC growth charts for the United States: Methods and development Vital Health Stat 2002.]) (n=32) or normal weight (5th–84.9th BMI percentile) (n=54) for purposes of this research. No participant was classified as underweight (<5th percentile). Ages ranged from 9–12 years. Appropriate consent, assent, and institutional review board approval were obtained.

2.2. Measures

Based on established surveys intended for older age groups, corresponding scales for the present age range were used to measure negative mood (e.g., “sad,” “nervous”; 6 items with responses ranging from 0=not at all to 4=extremely), self-regulation (e.g., “I say positive things to myself about being physically active”; 5 items with responses ranging from 1=never to 4=often), and self-efficacy (e.g., “I am sure I can exercise most days of the week even if the weather was bad”; 5 items with responses ranging from 1=not at all confident to 5=definitely) in a physical activity context. Both internal consistencies (Cronbach’s α) and test-retest reliabilities over 1 week were acceptable at ≥0.70, for each measure [9Annesi JJ, Walsh SM, Greenwood BL, Mareno N, Unruh-Rewkowski JL. Effects of the Youth Fit 4 Life physical activity/nutrition protocol on body mass index, fitness and targeted social cognitive theory variables in 9- to 12-year-olds during after-school care. J Paediatr Child Health 2017; 53(4): 365-73.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpc.13447] [PMID: 28052570]
].

BMI, a measure of body composition, was assessed using a recently calibrated digital scale for weight (Seca 876, Seca, Hanover, Maryland, USA), and a stadiometer for height (Seca 213, Seca, Hanover, Maryland, USA). The mean of 2 consecutive measurements was recorded. BMI was calculated as weight in kg/height in m2.

2.3. Procedure

The elementary after-school care physical activity/healthy eating program based on tenets of social cognitive theory [5Bandura A. Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 1986.] and self-efficacy theory [6Bandura A. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman 1997.], YF4L, was tested in children of both a normal (5th–84.9th percentile BMI) and overweight/obese (≥85th percentile BMI) body composition. Specifically, the protocol’s 9–12 year old version was administered 4 days/week, 45 minute/day, for 24 sessions over 9 months. YF4L’s bases in social cognitive theory and self-efficacy theory emphasized development of feelings of mastery, self-regulation, and positive psychological states to promote behavioral changes [5Bandura A. Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 1986., 6Bandura A. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman 1997.]. Its present application was also driven by 1) a desire to administer structured, theory-based methods through existing after-school care staff, and 2) reviews of earlier after-school intervention results with similar health-promotion goals [11Stice E, Shaw H, Marti CN. A meta-analytic review of obesity prevention programs for children and adolescents: The skinny on interventions that work. Psychol Bull 2006; 132(5): 667-91.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.5.667] [PMID: 16910747]
-14Sobol-Goldberg S, Rabinowitz J, Gross R. School-based obesity prevention programs: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013; 21(12): 2422-8.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oby.20515] [PMID: 23794226]
]. Existing after-school care counselors in the southeast United States directly administered the YF4L protocol after completing its 5-hour training. They had no other credentialing in health-promotion or physical education methods. The treatment protocol was supported by a 311-page manual.

Daily program components were: 1) a warm-up and a featured “isolated movement” (5 minutes); 2) a “high-intensity activity” (10 minutes) intended to have cardiovascular benefit and foster feelings of individual progress; 3) a “behavioral topic” or “health topic” (10 minutes on alternating days) intended to facilitate self-regulatory skills (e.g., goal setting/progress feedback, cognitive restructuring, recruiting social supports), an adjustment of psychological states (e.g., deep breathing/progressive relaxation), and facilitate a focus on healthy eating (e.g., maximizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains); 4) a “content reinforcement” activity (10 minutes) intended to support the above topics through a specially designed game/physical activity; and 5) a “go-to game” (10 minutes) which allowed choice of an activity that exemplified control over health behaviors.

Although expressed in lay terms for those directly administering the program, the protocol maintained a consistent emphasis on self-regulatory skills to deal with health-related behavioral barriers, fostering feelings of mastery through documenting one’s short-term healthy eating and physical activity goal progress, and purposefully controlling negative affect through newly learned skills.

Survey and height/weight (i.e., BMI) measurements were privately administered at baseline, month 3 (just prior to the mid-school year break), and month 9 (end of the school year). Regular protocol fidelity checks using a 24-item survey indicated consistent delivery of the treatment protocol.

3. RESULTS

Analyses were conducted using SPSS version 22.0 (IBM, Armonk, NY). Statistical significance was set at α≤0.05 (2-tailed). The 12% of missing-at-random data were imputed using the expectation-maximization algorithm.

There was no significant difference in age (overall mean±SD=9.9±0.9 years), sex (overall 42% female), or race/ethnicity (overall 23% White, 57% African-American, 14% Hispanic, 6% other) based on body composition groupings.

Mixed-model repeated measures ANOVAs indicated significant overall change in BMI (F1,84=12.60, P=0.001), and improvements in self-efficacy (F1,84=9.28, P=0.003), self-regulation (F1,84=10.21, P=0.002), and mood (F1,84=31.18, P<0.001), that did not significantly differ by group (P-values>0.70). BMI change was adjusted for expected increases associated with participants’ maturation. Specifically, the difference between each participant’s identified change, and projected change based on his/her initial BMI (to the nearest one-tenth point), age (to the nearest one-fourth year), and sex (extracted from previously published normative values for United States youths [10National Center for Health Statistics 2000 CDC growth charts for the United States: Methods and development Vital Health Stat 2002.]), was used as data. Because of previously established directionality [9Annesi JJ, Walsh SM, Greenwood BL, Mareno N, Unruh-Rewkowski JL. Effects of the Youth Fit 4 Life physical activity/nutrition protocol on body mass index, fitness and targeted social cognitive theory variables in 9- to 12-year-olds during after-school care. J Paediatr Child Health 2017; 53(4): 365-73.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpc.13447] [PMID: 28052570]
], Bonferroni-adjusted within-group t-tests that followed-up ANOVAs were 1 tailed (Table 1).

Table 1
Scores of Youth Fit 4 Life participants over 9 months, by body composition classification.


In multiple regression analyses using score changes from baseline–month 3, the prediction of BMI change by self-efficacy change did not reach statistical significance (R2=0.03, β=-0.17, SE=0.01, P=0.11). In step 2 of that equation, change in self-regulation (β=-0.26, SE=0.05, P=0.03), but not mood (β=-0.04, SE=0.02, P=0.73), significantly added to the explained variance in BMI change and rendered the overall model significant (ΔR2=0.06, R2=0.09, SE=0.65, P=0.05). In step 3, the addition of group (overweight/obese vs. normal) was not a significant contributor (P=0.99). By repeating the above regression analyses testing changes through month 9, self-efficacy change now significantly predicted BMI change (R2=0.05, β=-0.21, SE=0.02, P=0.05). Although each in the expected direction, neither self-regulation (β=-0.17, SE=0.04 P=0.16) nor mood (β=0.08, SE=0.02, P=0.51) significantly added to the explained variance in BMI change. The impact of body composition classification was again non-significant (P=0.90).

4. DISCUSSION

The present findings support tenets of social cognitive theory and self-efficacy theory as applied within the YF4L after-school care curriculum for 9–12 year olds. Specifically, the treatment’s focus on advancing self-efficacy and participants’ use of self-regulation skills was substantiated through its association with significant improvements in targeted psychosocial variables, and their linkage to BMI change. Consistent with related research with adults with obesity [4Annesi JJ, Johnson PH, Tennant GA, Porter KJ, Mcewen KL. Weight loss and the prevention of weight regain: Evaluation of a treatment model of exercise self-regulation generalizing to controlled eating. Perm J 2016; 20(3): 4-17.
[PMID: 26901268]
], improved self-regulation appeared to be more relevant over the initial months, while self-efficacy was the better predictor of BMI change over the longer term. Further research should carefully examine this apparent temporal pattern. It should be noted, however, that the referenced adult physical activity-prominent treatment [4Annesi JJ, Johnson PH, Tennant GA, Porter KJ, Mcewen KL. Weight loss and the prevention of weight regain: Evaluation of a treatment model of exercise self-regulation generalizing to controlled eating. Perm J 2016; 20(3): 4-17.
[PMID: 26901268]
] was over 24 months, rather than the 9 months within the present study. The field nature of this investigation was an advantage [15Green LW, Sim L, Breiner H, Eds. Evaluating obesity prevention efforts: a plan for measuring progress. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2013.], along with its decomposition of treatment effects which has often been suggested but rarely implemented [16Baranowski T, Lin LS, Wetter DW, Resnicow K, Hearn MD. Theory as mediating variables: Why aren’t community interventions working as desired? Ann Epidemiol 1997; 7(Suppl.): s89-95.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1047-2797(97)80011-7]
]. Findings were consistent with explanatory models based on social cognitive theory and self-efficacy theory that predicted physical activity and eating behavior changes, and subsequent weight losses in adults with obesity [17Annesi JJ. Supported exercise improves controlled eating and weight through its effects on psychosocial factors: Extending a systematic research program toward treatment development. Perm J 2012; 16(1): 7-18.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.7812/11-136] [PMID: 22529754]
]. Effect sizes for BMI change were favorable when contrasted with related treatments with youths [11Stice E, Shaw H, Marti CN. A meta-analytic review of obesity prevention programs for children and adolescents: The skinny on interventions that work. Psychol Bull 2006; 132(5): 667-91.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.5.667] [PMID: 16910747]
-14Sobol-Goldberg S, Rabinowitz J, Gross R. School-based obesity prevention programs: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013; 21(12): 2422-8.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oby.20515] [PMID: 23794226]
].

Based on the present findings, research is now planned to test extended theoretical paths (e.g., YF4L→improved exercise-related self-efficacy→improved eating-related self-efficacy→improved exercise and eating behaviors→healthy weight) to better-assess the effects on eating behaviors in children. Of importance will be evaluation of the proposed generalization, carry-over, and/or co-action [18Johnson SS, Paiva AL, Mauriello L, et al. Coaction in multiple behavior change interventions: Consistency across multiple studies on weight management and obesity prevention. Health Psychol 2014; 33(5): 475-80.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034215] [PMID: 24274806]
] between psychosocial changes induced through physical activity, to corresponding effects around improved eating behaviors such as those that were found in adults [17Annesi JJ. Supported exercise improves controlled eating and weight through its effects on psychosocial factors: Extending a systematic research program toward treatment development. Perm J 2012; 16(1): 7-18.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.7812/11-136] [PMID: 22529754]
]. Curriculum improvements will emerge from both the present findings and future related investigations.

Limitations of this research include the lack of a control group, and a relatively small sample size with a greater proportion of African-American participants than in the United States population, as a whole. Additionally, (yet unknown) characteristics of children participating in after-school care might further limit generalizability of finding to other settings (e.g., summer camp). Also, although missing data were minimal and shown to be missing-at-random, it is still possible that scores were partially biased by participants who were adverse to the program’s curriculum. For example, participants with extreme obesity (i.e., >99th percentile on BMI) might have perceived the treatment demands as extreme, and either withdrew or did not fully participate. Further research will be required to better account for such concerns in the future. Replication is also required for the 5–8 year old age group.

Although pediatricians, other medical professionals, and public health workers seek evidence-based methods to manage the weight of children, most available programs are atheoretical and/or difficult to access.

Although further testing and replications are required, findings suggested that the YF4L protocol is a promising program for the promotion of physical activity, healthy eating, and a healthy weight in youth. While possessing a clear theoretical foundation, it is both scalable and cost-effective; requiring neither advanced-degree specialists nor expensive equipment. It is also delivered in a common venue for children, with no additional registration costs associated with the program. Although further study and refinements should address areas such as 1) the efficacy of specific aspects of the program on their target area (e.g., use of goal setting affecting overall physical activity outputs), 2) generalization of self-regulatory skills to other areas (e.g., health eating, academic tasks), and 3) carry-over of effects throughout childhood, based on the present results, YF4L should soon be considered adequate for large-scale community-based applications.

ETHICS APPROVAL AND CONSENT TO PARTICIPATE

Institutional review board approval and consent to participate was obtained.

HUMAN AND ANIMAL RIGHTS

No animals were used in this research. All research procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the committee responsible for human experimentation (institutional and national), and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008 (http://www.wma.net/en/20activities/10ethics/10helsinki/).

CONSENT FOR PUBLICATION

Not applicable.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The author declares no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author acknowledges the participants, staff, and curriculum developers who made this research possible, and Ms. Chandler A. Annesi for her management of the data. No specific source of funding was used for this research.

REFERENCES

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[http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2014.732] [PMID: 24570244]
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[3] Koplan JP, Liverman CT, Kraak VI, Wisham SL, Eds. Progress in preventing childhood obesity: How do we measure up?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2007.
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[http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2005.10599320] [PMID: 16739685]
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[http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17437190903168561]
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[16] Baranowski T, Lin LS, Wetter DW, Resnicow K, Hearn MD. Theory as mediating variables: Why aren’t community interventions working as desired? Ann Epidemiol 1997; 7(Suppl.): s89-95.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1047-2797(97)80011-7]
[17] Annesi JJ. Supported exercise improves controlled eating and weight through its effects on psychosocial factors: Extending a systematic research program toward treatment development. Perm J 2012; 16(1): 7-18.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.7812/11-136] [PMID: 22529754]
[18] Johnson SS, Paiva AL, Mauriello L, et al. Coaction in multiple behavior change interventions: Consistency across multiple studies on weight management and obesity prevention. Health Psychol 2014; 33(5): 475-80.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034215] [PMID: 24274806]

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"Open Access journals offer an innovative and efficient way of publication for academics and professionals in a wide range of disciplines. The papers published are of high quality after rigorous peer review and they are Indexed in: major international databases. I read Open Access journals to keep abreast of the recent development in my field of study."


Daniel Shek
(Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

"It is a modern trend for publishers to establish open access journals. Researchers, faculty members, and students will be greatly benefited by the new journals of Bentham Science Publishers Ltd. in this category."


Jih Ru Hwu
(National Central University, Taiwan)


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