Teens sought for fitness study
(July 14, 2004)
Experts believe achieving fitness is usually the result of two things: eating less and doing more. In an effort to curb the growing waistlines of the region's teenagers, East Carolina University physiologist Mike McCammon's latest project will focus on the importance of doing more.
A $65,000 grant from the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation will enable McCammon to recruit up to 40 teenagers who are at-risk for overweight. He plans to pair them with ECU exercise physiology students, who will serve as personal trainers, and assist the teens with tailor-made exercise programs.
"A lot of interventions for adolescents are diet-based initiatives, and while activity is included in that intervention, it often takes a back seat," said McCammon, associate director of ECU's Human Performance Lab. "We want to focus on exercise, primarily cardiovascular and strength training."
The participants should be between the ages of 13 and 18 and be willing to exercise in the evenings during weekdays. Many referrals for potential candidates will likely come from schools and doctors' offices, but parents interested in having their child participate can call McCammon for details. In addition to connecting daily with their personal trainer, participants will be given a fitness test before and after the program and be encouraged to wear pedometers during the day. An environmental analysis will also be conducted so trainers can assess the participant's day-to-day surroundings and provide suggestions about nutrition and exercise opportunities.
"My hope is that the students will get the kids to do things that we, as adults, couldn't do," McCammon said, noting how important it is for young adults to have mentors and to feel empowered by making their own choices about fitness and physical activity.
"What we want is kids who are committed to doing this," he said. "We want to instill physical self-efficacy for kids and show them that they can improve their fitness."
Driving the study, he said, is an issue that goes beyond overweight. Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to develop Type II diabetes, an illness that had, until recently, been detected primarily in overweight and obese adults. Other illnesses, such as depression and cardiovascular disease, can also surface as a result of overweight, McCammon said. Focusing on physical activity in those who are most at-risk, he said, will help improve both the short- and long-term health of participants.
"Fitness is not just about our diet. Exercise and diet work together nicely but if you don't have exercise, you're missing out on a big piece of it," he said.