Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Fitness makes you happier, more productive (?)
The results below were probably a "Hawthorne effect" or placebo effect. It was most likely the enthusiasm of the specialist teachers that enlivened the students, not better exercises. Note the third-last paragraph below
Sports teachers have a previously unsung role in the academic development of children, researchers have found - a position at odds with the gradual disappearance of specialist physical education teachers across the country.
A multimillion-dollar study into the effect of physical education for primary school children has found aerobic fitness levels have a direct correlation with literacy and numeracy test results.
There's a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results.
Eight years ago, Dick Telford, the first sports scientist at the Australian Institute of Sport and now an elite running coach and adjunct associate professor at the Australian National University medical school, embarked on the Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) study.
His team secured $3 million in funding from the Commonwealth Education Trust to begin the most comprehensive study of its kind in the world.
They looked at two things: the effect of physical activity and the value of having specialist physical education in primary school.
They tested more than 850 year 2 students at Canberra primary schools. The children underwent numerous tests, including full body scans, blood tests, lifestyle questionnaires and hand-eye co-ordination measures. The tests were repeated each year through to year 6.
In 13 schools, Dr Telford's team installed specialist physical education teachers, provided free of charge by the not-for-profit Bluearth Foundation, to take two 50-minute classes a week.
The other 16 schools were the control group, where physical education was provided by classroom teachers.
Along the way, Dr Telford made the decision to also look at NAPLAN scores as part of the research.
"I started to prick up my ears to a few comments from the teachers saying they thought the kids were starting to concentrate better in class … that triggered my idea of measuring the NAPLAN. When I measured and found there was statistical significance, real results between the two groups, I must admit that was a bit of a surprise.
"There's a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results."
Controlling for socio-economic factors, they were able to predict the average NAPLAN results in a primary school just by knowing the average fitness level of the children.
The study has produced reams of data, and will revisit the now-adolescent children this year to test again, something researchers aim to do every decade to measure long-term effects of the early health indicators and physical education.
But Dr Telford feels there is already evidence to justify reintroducing specialist PE teachers, even before seeing the long-term results of instilling an early enjoyment of physical activity.
"The Bluearth teachers, because of their training, they were able to really engage all the kids in the class."
Funding is an issue, as PE teachers are seen as the most expendable, but Dr Telford says there are ways to improve the situation.
"The way to do it is to have a specialist PE teacher, accessible to the generalist primary school teachers, to continually motivate them and professionally develop them… that's a real workable option."
Is food labelling making you FAT? People eat more if a portion is labelled 'small' - even if it is huge
These results obtained under experimental conditions may not be replicated in real life
The way food is labelled affects affects how much we eat of it, according to new research. Scientists discovered that people are more inclined to eat more – sometimes double – of a portion if they believe it to be ‘regular’ or ‘small’.
However if a portion is termed as being ‘large’, people tend leave some of the food they have been given.
Dr Brian Wansink and Dr David Just, of the Food & Brand Lab at Cornell University, have discovered that people tend to eat more of an item if its size is termed 'regular' than if it's termed "double size" - even if the actual portion is the same.
‘If labels are used as size information [for food], policies governing normative names could help reduce food consumption or reduce waste,’ the researchers wrote in the study.
For the study, researchers served participants either one portion of a lunch item, such as spaghetti, or two portions.
For some of the participants, the single portion of food was called ‘half-size’ and the double portion was called ‘regular’, while for the other participants, the single portion was called ‘regular’ and the double portion was called ‘double size’.
Researchers found that participants ate more of the food when eating from the ‘regular’-labelled portion, compared with eating from the ‘double-size’-labeled portion - even though the portion sizes were exactly the same.
Dr Wansink and Dr Just also discovered that a person’s willingness to pay for food was also dependent on food labels.
If a food is considered a ‘half size’, they are only willing to pay half the price as a ‘regular’ portion, even if the actual portion sizes do not reflect their labels.
Dr Wansink and Dr Just previously found that the colour of a plate could influence how much a person ate.
Research published in the Journal of Consumer research found that people served food on tables with a higher colour contrast between the plate and the tablecloth ate more than those who were served the same amount of food without a noticeable contrast.
This meant that white and black plates in particular might cause a person to eat more.
The most recent study was published in the journal Health Economics.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:17 AM