Nutrition & Activity: Moving Towards Health
The teenage years are a sensitive time for many adolescents. During these years, teenagers experience pressure about fitting in and their body image. It is important as educators to engage teenagers in conversations about healthy views of body image. Body image can be defined as: how each individual sees himself/herself. Most teenagers link body image to self-esteem, because they often value how others see him/her more than how they see themselves.
This module is designed to introduce healthy views on body image via nutrition and exercise lessons. Teenagers who are exposed to and engage in sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. The Surgeon General’s recommendation is for teens to get at least one hour of exercise daily. Regular physical activity can help prevent the onset of chronic diseases, such as: heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The immediate benefits of regular physical activity are: feeling more energetic, maintenance of a healthy weight, and feeling better about what their body looks like.
The prevalence of childhood obesity has risen dramatically in the United States and has more than doubled among preschool children and adolescents. We are in a constant fight against obesity. Improving nutrition is another way to maintain a healthy weight. Currently, not many people know that increasing their consumption of vegetables and fruits can help decrease their weight. Teaching adolescents healthy eating habits will provide the foundation to establish a healthy lifestyle.
The majority of people are concerned about their health. At this time, different programs are being created to prevent the onset of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. One of the ways we can prevent disease is by improving our healthy habits. In this module we will focus on increasing physical activity and improving nutrition.alt
Why do we want to improve physical activity? Because physical activity can help:
- Improve aerobic capacity
- Improve flexibility
- Improve muscular strength
- Improve endurance
- Improve your overall health
If I improve my physical activity, how would it improve my overall health? Because it would help:
- Lower lipid and cholesterol levels
- Decrease the blood pressure levels in adolescents with borderline hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Help control your weight
- Lower levels of anxiety and stress
- Build bone mass
- Increase self-esteem
Let’s think about lipids and cholesterol. What is a lipid? A type of fat. What is cholesterol? It makes up fat. Let’s go back to Modules 1 and 2 and think about cardiovascular disease and atherosclerotic plaques. Your body is made up of little pipelines, known as vessels. You have two different types of vessels: arteries and veins. The arteries and veins are the highways used in your body. Blood travels through these highways to get to and from different organs. They carry oxygen and different nutrients your body needs in order for it to stay healthy. If you have an obstacle in your highway, such as: a collision, a huge pothole, or just a lot of garbage. The nutrients will not be able to flow freely.
Now, let’s think of what creates the garbage in the highways. When you eat a piece of food, your body breaks it down into different nutrients and delivers it via blood. However, when you eat fatty foods; such as, pizza or French fries; your body will break it down into nutrients and take the lipids and cholesterol found in the food and deposit it in the vessels because the body cannot break them down further. These lipids and cholesterol will accumulate and create the garbage causing the backups in your highway. This will make the flow of blood difficult, with time; these will accumulate and create atherosclerotic plaques, which will later manifest itself as cardiovascular disease.
The highways are now cluttered, the smaller highways will be backed up and your body will need to work harder to get nutrients from one place to another. As your body works harder, your blood pressure gets higher and with time you will develop hypertension.
The vessels will have atherosclerotic plaques in different areas, therefore; the free-flowing vessels are now clogged and they become narrower. The vessels are constricting and your body needs blood for oxygen and nutrients. The body will continue to have back-ups and after a while it will reach a state of chaos, your levels of stress and anxiety will be higher. This could all be prevented by: consuming green leafy vegetables and fruits. Consuming fats will not give you the necessary nutrients the body needs, such as: Vitamin D and Calcium. These items are necessary to create strong bones. Without strong bones, bone mass will decrease and we will begin to increase in weight.
The increase in weight and decrease in bone mass will make exercising harder to do and you will start feeling bad about the way you look, your self-esteem will begin to decrease, and it will be harder to maintain an exercise routine. This is why we need to ensure we learn about this process early and we create healthy habits.
It is recommended that adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of exercise or some type of physical activity every day. But, what counts as exercise? Exercise is moving. This can be:
- Playing Basketball
- Playing Soccer
- Doing the yard work (mowing the lawn)
- Vacuuming the house
- Walking to and from school (more than two blocks)
- Walking the dog
- Biking to school/work
- Taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, etc.
*Information retrieved from Empowering Youth on Nutrition and Physical Activity
Student Learning Objectives
After completing this module, students will be able to:
- Explain the average amount of vegetable consumption currently recommended for adolescents
- Explain the average amount of fruit consumption
- Explain what makes a healthy diet
- Describe the different eating disorders
- Be able to read and understand nutritional fact labels
- Explain the importance for physical activity in chronic disease prevention
- Describe current eating habits
- Explain what type of exercises they can do to improve fitness & health
- Explain why they need to exercise