Does Physical Activity and Sport Practice Lead to a Healthier Lifestyle and Eating Habits in Male Adolescents?

The prevalence of childhood obesity has been increasing rapidly and there is general consensus that good nutritional practices and physical activity should be encouraged as early as possible in life. The aim of this study was to describe and to compare the current lifestyle and dietary pattern of normal weight (NW) and overweight + obese (OW+OB) male adolescents who are physically active.
Methods: This observational and retrospective study was based on clinical records analysis of male adolescents aged 11-18 years who had undergone a medical evaluation at a Medical Sport Centre (Pavia, Italy) during 2009, and had filled in a self-administered life style questionnaire.
Results: The results showed that out of 1423 clinical records 23.0% of subjects were OW, 5.4% OB and 71.6% NW. We invited all the overweight and obese subjects to participate in the study, 308 of them (75.8%) agreed. Then we randomly enrolled an equivalent number of NW participants (n=308) in the medical evaluation at the sports center with similar characteristics as for socio-economic status, physical activity and age for a whole sample of 616 subjects. We handled them a validated lifestyle questionnaire. The questionnaire analysis was used to compare OW+OB and NW participants, as far as eating habits, sedentary activities and time spent in sports. All the subjects frequently skipped breakfast, did not consume fruit and vegetables daily and had a high soft drinks intake. Inverse correlations were found between weight and physical activity (p=0.01). Sedentary activities were preferred by about 25% and 66 % of the NW and OW+OB groups respectively. The percentage of smokers was similar within the two groups (14%).
Conclusions: Adolescents eating habits are incorrect, despite BMI and sports practice. Sports practice seems contributing to lower spare time physical inactivity, but does not improve eating habits. Public health interventions should focus on the reinforcement of leisure time physical activity, besides nutrition education and behavioral education programs in order to prevent obesity in the adulthood.
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