Goals

2017 Pedometer Program Recap

This year, we got kids to become more physically active through yet another successful Step It Up pedometer program. We worked with two schools and one community-based organization, and provided students and teachers with 200 pedometers this year.

Throughout Step It Up, we have spoken to a student, teachers, and a social worker about their experiences, and found that pedometers more than increased physical activity among participants. Step It Up helped students become more competitive, learn about goal-setting, and encouraged students to collaborate with each other to work as a team.

We would also like to give a huge thanks to the everyone who participated and supportedStep It Up. Thanks to you, we are one step closer to getting more kids moving and forming healthy habits.

We spoke to some of the teachers and students from the program and here is what they had to say about Step It Up:

The pedometers are a great tool for students to use...This day and age, it’s crucial to have integration of technology with fitness...The pedometers are great to bring into any physical education or health class to jumpstart fitness, especially for students who are apprehensive about working out in groups because they’re embarrassed or nervous. When it’s just them, alone, and the pedometer, they don’t have any hold-ups. They can just go out and do it.
— Eric Seely, teacher at Achievement First University Prep High School
Some of the students did a family thing. They got their sister or brother involved to walk with them when they were getting their steps.
— Steve Lieberman, teacher at EPIC High School
Because they were working so closely together for the pedometer program, they had to work together...to get them out of their funk and [that] made their relationship stronger.
— Lucas Slattery, social worker at Boys Hope Girls Hope
The pedometers motivated me to be a lot more fit and be active in my life...Instead of exercising just once a week, I upped it to three and then to four times a week, to meet the steps, I decided to run more... I definitely saw how effective the pedometers were.
— Jabari Boss, 12th grade student at Achievement First University Prep High School

Setting Good Activity Goals

Today we’re continuing our segment on technology and our efforts to be less sedentary. In trying to be more physically active, it’s often most effective to set goals and work towards them each day. Goals can be individual ones or benchmarks for groups of friends or family members. But how do we set goals that work best for us?

 

A popular goal for daily physical activity is 10,000 steps per day. It’s become a catchphrase for the makers of exercise gadgets and wearable technology, but the number “10K a day” is not one that has a lot of scientific research behind it. In fact, a recent New York Times article says that a better goal might be 15,000 steps per day. Studies that arrive at approximate numbers like these often look at certain populations at a time - the study described in this article looked at postal-service walkers, many of whom were older and walked a lot each day. Also, the benefits of this sort of exercise look at health conditions that often do not manifest themselves until later in life (e.g. risk of heart disease).

 

Universal goals like these numbers only offer a simplistic approach to quantifying adequate exercise. (15,000 steps a day is apparently the equivalent of walking briskly for two hours at a 4mph pace.) What does this number mean for children who often need to be very active, but also must spend hours sitting at school each day in class? And even among children, different individuals have different needs or circumstances that might make walking 15, 000 a day a tricky goal.

 

Future research could have real potential for impact if it looks at what ideal exercise for children looks like. Federal guidelines already recommend brisk activity nearly every day for young children, but since many children and teenagers are eager to take advantage of new technology to monitor their activity, researchers should investigate what activity levels are ideal and safe for these users.  


 

Wearable Tech and Meaningful Changes in Health

Recently, our blog posts have discussed the role of technology in children’s lives today - specifically, smartphones and Internet safety. At CHIL, we’re also working with students to incorporate technology into their physical activity via our pedometer program.

 

“Wearable technology” like Fitbits and Apple Watches have exploded in popularity in recent years. Their popularity especially among students has inspired several extensive studies into the effectiveness of such devices for goals like weight loss. These studies have been published in influential publications like the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggesting their importance and relevance today. Many of these studies showed mixed results in the effect of having a Fitbit-like device on weight loss over time.

 

But it’s important to remember that while weight loss is potentially an easy, objective measure for researchers, it is not the only potential health benefit that comes from tracking day-to-day activity. It’s also not the only goal that students should have for themselves. Simply tracking physical activity can be a huge help for those who need to increase their daily activity levels - and that applies to many of us, and to students as well. Despite the federal recommendation that teens get at least one hour of exercise (moderate or rigorous) each day, 2012 data showed that only one in four teens get that hour, according to an article recently published by NPR.  The  Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that nearly half of American youths aged 12-21 years are not vigorously active on a regular basis.

 

Another article in NPR weighs some of the factors that could influence the effectiveness of wearable technology for fitness or activity. For example, while meeting daily fitness goals and step counts (the popular “10K a day”) could really motivate one person, failing to meet the same goal could discourage another from continuing to wear the device altogether. Also, meeting a daily goal could actually cause a person to “reward” him/herself with more calories. How, then, can we make these gadgets more effective? According to Dr. Mitesh Patel, who was interviewed in the NPR article, these devices are basically most effective when the people using them are “already dedicated to tracking their fitness.” Beyond the initial cost of an expensive device, there has to be a motivator that continues after the novelty of the gadget wears off.


What does this mean for students who are using less-pricey tools like those in our pedometer programs? These students can probably derive most of their long-term motivation not from the promise of weight loss but from the support they get from their school, friends, and family to be more active. The CDC agrees, pointing out that “well designed school-based interventions” and “social support from family and friends” are key in increasing physical activity for all teens. Our pedometer program seeks to do just that. For more information about our pedometer program, please click here.

Forming New Year's Resolutions to Keep

Happy New Year! Many of us want to start off on the right track in the new year by making resolutions. These resolutions aren’t limited to adults; kids can make them too along with their parents and siblings! Resolutions don’t have to be notoriously difficult to keep either.

 

Many families may strive to eat healthier and get more exercise. Dr. Thomas McIerny, the former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pointed out the importance of these goals - they improve health and they establish healthy habits that will stay with children throughout their lives..

 

Check out the AAP’s tips for parents and kids to help you formulate healthy resolutions this year. Let’s break them down and take a look:

 

Eating:

  • Focus on developing healthy attitudes about food and where it comes from by avoiding a “clean your plate” mentality that discourages conversation about food.

  • Establish a “regular routine” of meals and snacks, and always eat meals at the table. As mentioned in our previous blog post, children who eat with family tend to experience a diverse range of foods and avoid overeating.

  • We also talked about picky eaters who can pose as a challenge to parents. But we should keep two truths in mind: when a child rejects a certain food, it’s always a good idea to try again later; parents also remain their children’s best role models.

Play:

  • Anything can become physical activity such as a walk around the neighborhood, or going out to the yard. Take advantage of this as a group.

  • Limit screen time for children. Each day brings new research that further proves that devices can distract from good sleep or ruin concentration. Televisions, phones, and video games are all ubiquitous in our daily lives, but we can take steps to limit their influence in our lives.

  • Encourage your children to participate in sports and dance teams that can introduce them to new friends while also providing physical activity.

 

Here are some tips from Stanford University’s Children’s Hospital on how to achieve these goals:

  • Make small goals: these are easier to keep, so it won’t be as discouraging if you fail to meet a very ambitious goal about a habit that takes time to develop. Establishing one activity to do each week is a great start.

  • Have roles and a buddy system: Family members can remind each other about their goals and help each other stay on track. Encourage kids to be active participants in choosing their next goal.

  • Have a rewards system: Small, non-food rewards can accumulate to bigger awards, which kids can choose for themselves (e.g. a trip to the beach or playing a favorite game).

  • Practice simple journaling: It can build awareness, according to Cindy Zedeck, director of the Pediatric Weight Control Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Journaling can help you think about the choices you’ve made that day.