Lifestyle counselling improves children’s physical activity, diet quality
Individualized and family-based lifestyle counselling helps increase physical activity and enhance diet quality in children, according to the PANIC* study.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland investigated the effects of a long-term, individualized and family-based intervention on physical activity, sedentary behaviours, and diet quality in 506 children (age 6-8 years), who were divided into intervention group (306, 60 percent) and control group (200, 40 percent) and followed for 2 years. [Prev Med 2016;doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.02.027]
“We found that the 2-year individualized and family-based lifestyle intervention aimed at increasing physical activity, decreasing sedentary behaviour, and enhancing diet quality improved in these children,” the researchers said.
Children from the intervention group had a marked increase in their physical activity, but this was decreased in the control group (+9 min/d versus-5 min/d; p=0.001). Both groups increased their screen-based sedentary behaviour, such as using computer and playing video games, but this was less in the intervention group compared to the control group (+9 min/d vs +19 min/d; p=0.003).
Lifestyle counselling helped increase the consumption of vegetables (+12 g/d vs -12 g/d), low-fat milk (+69 g/d vs +11 g/d), and high-fat vegetable oil-based margarine (+10 g/d vs +3 g/d) in children who received the intervention compared to those who did not.
Diet quality also improved for children who received counselling as shown by their increased intake of dietary fibre (+1.3 g/d vs +0.2 g/d), vitamin C (+4.5 mg/d vs -7.2 mg/d), and vitamin E (+1.4 mg/d vs +0.5 mg/d).
Children and their parents in the intervention group received six physical activity counselling sessions of 30-45 min and six dietary counselling sessions of 30-45 min whereas those in the control group received only verbal and written advice on improving physical activity and diet, but did not get any active intervention. Children in the intervention group were also encouraged to participate in after-school exercise clubs and engage in physical activities.
“Parents have a major impact on their children’s health behaviour,” said lead researcher Professor Timo Lakka from the Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland. “Individualized lifestyle counselling involving parents could be part of the child healthcare system. Reducing the risk of many non-communicable diseases by improved lifestyle habits could also reduce healthcare costs.”