Identifying Factors Associated With Physical Activity In Middle School Minority Girls



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The obesity epidemic in the United States is an increasing public health concern that is affecting more children every day. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 23.5 million children and adolescents (aged 2-19) are categorized as overweight or obese. Engaging in regular physical activity is critical at a young age to decrease the risk of developing a chronic disease in adulthood. Minority children are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic due to behavioral and social factors. However, Hispanic girls have the second highest rate of obesity prevalence among minority girls. During adolescence Hispanic girls experience a decline in physical activity for reasons that have not been fully investigated. In this study, we investigated the differences in weight loss between Hispanic boys (n=36) and Hispanic girls (n=49) in a school-based obesity prevention intervention at YES Prep Charter School. In a randomized control trial, students that identified as Hispanic with a BMI ≥ 95th percentile, were placed in an escalated treatment program (Take CHARGE!). Treatment duration was 3 months and occurred during the participants’ PE class, five days a week for 45 minutes each day. We compared group differences on baseline using T-tests and chi-square. No differences were found between genders with respect to baseline demographic or anthropometric variables. The Hispanic boys demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in their zBMI when compared to girls (F = 6.72, p < .05), although post hoc analyses revealed that both boys and girls significantly reduced their zBMI at 6 months compared to baseline (t = 4.34, p = .001; t = 2.45, p = .032, respectively). This study demonstrates that Hispanic girls experience sex-specific barriers that impedes them from engaging in physical activity. There is a need for health promotion that isn’t only tailored to culture and age, but to gender as well in order to tackle the obesity epidemic.



Obesity, Adolescents