Student Well-Being

Benefits of Exercise Show Racial Differences

By Hannah Rose Sacks — June 20, 2012 1 min read
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While exercise may be beneficial in combating obesity in adolescents, a new study suggests physical activity may be less successful in preventing obesity in black girls than in their white counterparts.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, examines the levels of physical activity and obesity of more than 1,100 girls at ages 12 and 14. The racial split was 538 black girls and 610 white ones.

Measurements of obesity include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definitions of obesity, the International Obesity Task Force body mass index cut points, and the sums of skin-fold thickness. The study also compares participants’ physical activity and food intake, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Based on the girls’ level of physical activity, they were divided into lower and upper halves within their respective racial categories. Twelve-year-old white girls in the upper half were 85 percent less likely to become obese at age 14 than their white peers in the bottom half. However, black girls in the top half were only 15 percent less likely to be obese two years later than black girls in the lower half, reports the Times.

The study concludes by suggesting that obesity preventions aimed at black girls may need to be adapted to account for their decreased sensitivity to the effects of physical activity.

Authors James White of Cardiff University and Russell Jago of the University of Bristol write that their results “suggest that prompting adolescent girls to be active may be important to prevent obesity but that using different approaches ... may be necessary to prevent obesity in black girls.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.