Amish children’s physical activity gives protection against obesity and diabetes
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Amish children’s physical activity gives protection against obesity and diabetes

Baltimore : MD : USA | Oct 24, 2012 at 6:22 AM PDT
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The body mass index, or BMI, is calculated by dividing a person's weight by the square of his or her height

Amish children more physically active than non-Amish children

Older Order Amish children have twice the amount of physical activity compared to non-Amish children resulting in three times less likely to be overweight which may provide them with a degree of long term protection against type 2 diabetes according to researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in their current study in which examines childhood factors that may provide long-term protection against type 2 diabetes.

View slideshow: Keeping kids and parents active

For this new study researchers compared Older Order Amish children aged 8 to 19 years, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and children from Maryland’s Eastern Shore (ES) a nearby rural community (non-Amish).

Researchers had found Amish children spent 53 minutes a day in moderate to vigorous activity and 34 minutes a day in light physical activity compared to non-Amish children. The amount of moderate to vigorous activity is important to cardiovascular health and Amish children had twice the amount of physical activity compared to non-Amish children. The level of physical activity was inversely correlated to their BMI, or body mass index, which is a measurement of body fat based on a person's height and weight. In order to measure physical activity children wore accelerometers on the hip. The meters worn were the same for both groups of children.

Dr. Soren Snitker, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine and senior author of study stated “We know from our earlier research that Amish adults are just as overweight as non-Amish Americans of European origin, but they have half the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.” "This study suggests that the Amish gain their excess weight relatively late in life, which may decrease their long-term risk of developing the disease." The number of years someone is obese is a risk factor for diabetes, irrespective of the person's age and current BMI.”

Dr. Snitker said that higher levels of physical activity and lower BMI are both protective against diabetes. He points out that obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and that all Americans can learn something from the "This study suggests that the Amish gain their excess weight relatively late in life, which may decrease their long-term risk of developing the disease." The number of years someone is obese is a risk factor for diabetes, irrespective of the person's age and current BMI.

Dr. Sniker points out higher levels of physical activity and lower BMI are protective against diabetes and all Americans can learn something from the Amish and focus on being more physically active. He points out that whether a child is physically active or not depends a lot on the choices parents make for their children such as do parents promote physically demanding activities for their children or do they allow them to play video games and watching television for long hours.

The Old Order Amish in Lancaster County trace their ancestry back 14 generations. Amish do not drive automobiles or are allowed to own them but can ride in them. Amish also do not have electricity in which eliminates the things non-Amish children enjoy like television and computers.

Physical activities for Amish children include walking to school, doing chores and playing with friends.

"The Amish lifestyle affects the whole family, involving Old Order Amish (OOA) children in household or farming chores from an early age," according to researchers. They also note Amish children spend a great deal of time outdoors playing.

In their conclusion researchers write “We confirmed all three hypotheses. Together with our previous data, the study implies that the OOA tend to gain their excess weight relatively late in life and that OOA children are very physically active, both of which may provide some long-term protection against diabetes.”

This study appears in the journal Diabetes Care.

According to recent guidelines Americans should walk 10,000 steps a day which has some Americans finding it a challenge. When it comes to 10,000 steps a day in the Amish community it is an easy task to achieve as they log over 10,000 steps daily.

In a study from the University of Tennessee on physical activity in Older Order Amish community, researchers found the average steps per day were 18,425 for men and 14, 196 for women. Men reported 10 hours weekly of vigorous activity, 42.8 hours weekly of moderate activity and 12.01 hours a week of walking and women had 3.4 hours weekly vigorous activity, 39.2 hours weekly of moderate activity and 5.7 hours of walking.

The researchers concluded that the Amish have very high levels of physical activity which may contribute to their low prevalence of obesity.

Tips on how to get to those 10,000 steps a day can be viewed online at The Walking Site.

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The Amish way of life in Pennsylvania
The Amish way of life in Pennsylvania
Debbie Nicholson is based in Detroit, Michigan, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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