Monday, April 23, 2012

"Food Deserts" have sprouted greens!

In today's New York Times Health section, the author quotes studies challenging the First Ladies' assertion of poor neighborhoods being 'food deserts', meaning that they are bereft of any produce and people have no options besides a big mac and fries.

From the article:
Dr. Sturm’s study, published in February in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, had a different design. With financing from the National Institutes of Health, he used data on the self-reported heights, weights, and diets of more than 13,000 California children and teenagers in the California Health Interview Survey. The survey included the students’ addresses and the addresses of their schools. He used a different data set to see what food outlets were nearby. Dr. Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.
He has also completed a national study of middle school students, with the same result — no consistent relationship between what the students ate and the type of food nearby. Living close to supermarkets or grocers did not make students thin and living close to fast food outlets did not make them fat.
In a study performed by Peter Twist and presented by Scott Avery at which I was present at the 2011 IDEA Conference on Personal Training, there was a correlation between the distances children walked to school (it has gotten shorter over the years and fewer kids are walking), their level of activity at school, and their after school activity. Kids either aren't getting enough activity, or they started with an intense program and later dropped it, or they don't eat right. Obesity is not the plight of the poor, but instead the scourge of every economic level. It's time to start encouraging more activity!

Here are some great suggestions for family and friends to engage in during their busy schedule during the week:

  1. Watch a movie or TV show while on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike. Try joining a gym so that you can have friends join you, and you aren't beholden to the weather
  2. Start a book club that meets while taking a walk around your neighborhood, instead sitting around and eating in someone's house. That could save you anywhere from 150-300 calories in snacking. If you use an e-reader, carry it with you while you walk because they are often back lit and can be referenced while you are all out.
  3. Call family and friends from a cell phone while walking (preferably going hands free with Bluetooth or some other option)
  4. Run shuttle runs across your backyard for 5:00 minutes (probably about 20 times back and forth)
  5. Plant a vegetable garden and pick your salad and dinner options out of your backyard
If we start taking responsibility for our choices instead of believing that society is conspiring to fatten us up, then we can take necessary steps towards making our own lives better.